Friday, November 4, 2011

Master Artists

There are some of the best artists in Afghanistan. Most of them reside in Herat and they all working with The Galleria.

Born in Herat in 1977, Abdul Nasser Sawaby first learned art with the renowned master of Herat School miniature, Ustad Mohammad Said Mashal. In 2005 he graduated from University of Fine Arts in Herat University and immediately was selected as a teacher of miniature at the faculty. The following year, Sawaby left the country to study for his Masters in Modern Arts in Tehran, which he acquired with honors. Upon his return, he was placed in-charge of the department of miniature at the Faculty of Fine Arts in Herat University. Among his accomplishments is the restoration of the historic Blue Mosque of Herat’s Timurid style mehrob [niche in the wall that indicates direction of prayer]. Following the departure of Taliban in 2002, Sawaby has been responsible for renovating and redesigning the historic Herat House, which houses the municipality. In addition to miniature and modern art, Sawaby has also worked on carpet design, stone masonry and has created new style of Arabesque. In inter-collegial art competition in Iran, he has received the second prize. Sawaby has had over 15 exhibitions nationally and internationally. He is among a handful of Afghans anywhere who is a master of miniature, Arabesque and art.

Akram (goes by one name only) is a 25 year old innovative & profoundly talented artist. He has worked with watercolor and oil paint, creating some great pieces. However his latest work revolves around Mud and creating art work on paper from mud which has sparked much interest and controversy in Afghanistan. Originally from Ghazni but studying until recently under the famous master artists of Herat, Akram came back to his native birthplace to exhibit his newly learned talent and innovation to the local crowd first - as a way to honor his city.  However, his childhood Madrasa (religious seminary school) classmates, now Taliban commanders, found Akram’s idea of creating forms from mud not so original, citing scripture to argue that there was someone else who created a couple of works from mud and called them Adam and Eve. Moreover, these classmates did not have a sense of humor about this copy right infringement and called Akram to bring his pieces to them for ‘approval’, one day prior to the world-première exhibition. Needless to say Akram left town before dusk, as his year’s effort of experimenting and 40 artworks followed in the next bus out of town the following day, wrapped in thick fabric inside a box - to avoid any association, if caught.

            Far from playing God, Akram wants to challenge himself and others to create new works, new thoughts and new approaches. A former Madrasa student, Akram signed up for Herat University’s Department of Fine Arts as a joke to dare his friends who all failed to get into school of architecture. After a semester of goofing off at school, Akram did not find much to laugh about when his grades were posted. He then promised himself to be the best artist he could be.  Taking private lessons from such artists as Raashed Rahmani and working day and night at his craft to become a top student at the university, so much so that when the Italian PRT (based in Herat) wanted to gift a painting of their top commander for himself as a Christmas present, the PRT contacted University of Fine Arts to draw the commander’s picture. The University in turn placed this diplomatically sensitive task at the capable hands of Akram. A recent graduate Akram settled in Kabul and is working independently.

 Master calligrapher Najibullah Anwari, 42, is one of the best, if not the best, calligrapher of Afghanistan. Anwari follows the late Kulhar and Mir Ahmad in Nastaliq and Shekast fonts. He emphasizes more on Nastaleeq and Shekest because to him these styles are like aromatic flowers, which have their own beauty and it is these two styles that inspire him the most. Anwari has written three books and many articles on the art of calligraphy. He teaches courses in calligraphy in Herat and enjoys immense respect there. Known calligraphers such as Karimzada are among his students.

 Mehdi Banaii. 2008 graduate of Herat University’s Department of Fine Arts, Banaii comes from an artist family. Twelve generations back, his forefather was credited with building the great mosque of Mazar-e Sharif. In fact his last name, Banaii, means builder in Dari language. His family had been entrusted with repairing and restoring the Blue Mosque of Herat. Studying miniature and also working on calligraphy under the renowned master artist Najibullah Anwari, Banaii slowly coming to his own. A young  master himself, Banaii has both the education, talent and creativity of a good artist. He is a miniaturist, painter and calligrapher, thus able to approach a subject matter from different points of view.

Master Calligrapher Haidarzada Hussaini

 Master calligrapher Abdul Hakim Karimzada, 45, is a student of Anwari. His techniques in paper treatment, brush strokes and composition and the application of calligraphy is a departure from the classic norm. Karimzada is very worldly, practical and visionary in his work and likes to experiment with his craft in order to bring calligraphy to a more modern level.

Rashed Rahmani was born in Kabul in 1983. He graduated Ghulam Haidar High School in Kabul but did not pursue further formal studies. His passion for art started in his mid teens as he tried to learn art from different sources. By early 20’s he seriously committed himself to art and moved from Kabul to Herat which is the cultural center of Afghanistan. He fill in love with Herat's history, glamour and rich art scene. Although he has techniques from various masters, he has not been influenced by any one person. Most of his work is watercolor in which he is superb. Few Afghan artists have the caliber and talent in watercolor as Rashed Rahmani. Nevertheless, his pencil work, oil and postal color is just as amazing. He leans more toward watercolor because he loves the rich and vibrant colors. Rahmani is  not afraid of being known for one single art and he does not follow any particular style. Most however would describe Rahmani’s style as Realist or Impressionist. As an artist he is aware of the limitations existing in Afghanistan both in terms of accessibility to new work, techniques, materials, artistic atmosphere, etc. but he is not phased by them. He wishes to advance and do more. He is impressed by the US artists, especially Asian-American artists, who he thinks have amazing techniques. His dream is to learn from such high caliber artists in the West and perhaps one day to make a name for himself as an Afghan artist. While Rahmani is considered a master artist in Afghanistan, he feels he has a lot more to learn. Particularly he wants to learn new techniques of achieving certain moods, impressions and conditions with fewer brushstrokes. Rahmani feels that the poor art growth in Afghanistan needs a boost and he sees himself as someone who can make some noteworthy contributions. Currently he owns a gallery and workshop in Herat and has about 90 students, most from the faculty of Fine Arts in Herat University. Rahmani’s biggest tool for contacting various artists around the world is the internet. He says Afghanistan has just recently been connected to the worldwide web. He visits the internet regularly and tries to learn fresh ideas from various sources. He loves to look at art of all genres as he says he learns something from all of them.

 Master miniaturist Tawfiq Rahmani, 38, is a master of the classical Behzad School of Herat. Although Mr. Rahmani creates many styles of medieval and contemporary Islamic and European artwork, his mastery is in miniature painting. His use and conceptualization of color is almost unmatched in Afghanistan. He paints classical items but adds contemporary ideas to his otherwise traditional miniatures. He is the President of the Faculty of Fine Arts at Herat University. Rahmani had studied under the renowned master Mohammad Sayyed Mashal of Herat. His work has no equal in Afghanistan. Mr. Rahmani is one of the three Afghan artists sponsored by Afghan Communicator to attend the Istanbul International Biennial Art Exhibition in 2005.

Master Calligrapher and tile maker Tawana

Mr. Yama Akhwan, 38, is a graduate of Department of Fine Arts of Herat University and a current faculty member. A great organizer, Mr. Akhwan has created a network of artists and craftsmen in Herat. He also serves as a representative of Afghan Communicator and Chelcherogh Art in Herat. His designs can be seen around Herat city, as statues or monuments that beautifies the city of Herat. Chelcherogh carries some of his work.