‘Saddened Mona Lisa’ and other paintings – experimental art from Lahore


Art of, and for, Syyed Iqbal Geoffrey – – he being a genuine mussawere (artist) and a prominent vakil ( facilitator of justice-with-love) acclaimed by Sir Herbert Read as an “Astonishing Phenomenon” and Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II has graciously described him as “The Arts Counsel of Great Britain   – –  is not a born-again outlet or some glittering outage chamaking (shinning on a Cash ‘N  Carry basis in Neverneverland. (References : Zoha Noor-Fatima A. Haider (London)* & Suellen W. Liker (Phoenix)**

(above: SELF=PORTRAIT TOO [1962-2012] : “HER MAJESTY THE QUEEN WITNESSING THE FIRST DROP OF DEW FALLING ON INDIGENOUS MAN’GO!!” oil and mixed media on cardboard-canvas; size 47 inches x 27 inches .. current token price PRs 78600.92P. (may not be acquired at this important stage of its creation by any foreigner). Subject to increases with notice.)

Art is, in fact, an outpouring of nuances and occasional needling which indicates entrepreneurial standing ‘Out’ for prompting, perpetrating and empowering chAnge in order to enhance AesthETHICS and enrich quality of life. Certainly, that elucidates daring, defiant, provocative innovation, while simultaneously assuming unusual risks in a state-of-the-art world driven by nuisance, misguided fondness towards fashionable mediocrity and status-quo sustaining worshipfulness, eventually maligning and obstructing honest-to-goodness public interest and commonweal. Sycophancy galore and fiefdom control rule the roost. That ubiquitous ‘roost’ is getting rusted yet treated/feasted as chicken roast by Geoffrey. In the face of publicity-scams (inflated auction prices to hoodwink the innocent investors), Geoffrey has focused on chiseling level playing-fields and upholding the non-In; Indifference for example.

Apathy towards aesthetics is a no-no.  Diligently, Geoffrey picks up the threads (and the pieces) wherever the strand has been snapped or let loose by the twisting, courtesy vested interests. ’Dilemmas of Being’ cannot be left to (or resolved by) the whims (or lack-of-imagination) of the wicked or the flourishing bears’ culture that is pulling the world apart (with Titanic and Tantric) naughtiness (accented by Negative Sum Mentality) Geoffrey mocks and ridicules that lot as the “nouveau riche”). Riche in Urdu means ‘bear’.

The cash-crazy riff-raff systemically confuses and confounds salutary concerns common to the rest of the mankind and tarnish the know-how about our surrounding environments. The prevalent trend today is not beneficially oriented towards deconstruction and restructuring of Beauty. Geoffrey’s  elements and  ingredients confront this  conundrum and accompanying ceremonies (obeisance to  the ‘don’t-rock-the-boat’ syndrome)  solidly upfront,  head on and with the design to engage  radically  by evolving a neo-dynamics  – – neither polite nor ‘elite’. These are   not mere paint, cheque-mate; and bank not upon drawings (exploration of variegated PR and publicity stunts) but invoke mystery and determinedly inspire vision transcending the mundane machinations. This particular approach rejects deep-pocketing the gainful spoils evident in rampant, ravaging Rat-Race. Realization of truth is better (albeit bitter).

The paradigm-shifting, road-mapping, nouveau art of the Paris Biennial [1965] Laureate Iqbal Geoffrey does not pine after Painted Words, nor even remotely solicits massive approbation.  Although, initially,  things may seem quiet and  normal at surface level , but grater-thinking, loneliness of the long-distance runner (necessarily out of step with the current pace of places as well as placebos – – being way ahead)   higher sense of humour,  honourable transformation  are all   brewing underneath as well as inside ought. That embodies iconic vitalization and tonic magical ingenuity.

“God is Beautiful and loves beauty”, said Holy Prophet Mohummed (peace be upon him) and beautifully elaborated that: “[the] ink of a scholar is worthier than the blood of  many-splendoured martyrs”. Imam Caliph Hazrat Ali, ES, stated  unequivocally : “One who cannot discern his own selfworth is divinely extinguished.”  Righteous Caliph Omer, RA, noted: “The most unpardonable wrong is the sin of hypocrisy!!” Those who know better, do matter. Here one is reminded of Confucius, “When a scholar points his finger towards the moon, the dudes look at the finger.” That is the sort of learning and research that signified our golden heritage which includes encouragement for embarking on epic odysseys outreaching far-flung places (for example China), for soulful sake of acquiring knowledge, furthering higher wisdom and greater enlightenment).

Another Paris Biennial [1961] laureate Syed Sadequain (Naqvi) used to mercifully lament about “keeraw-mockoRaws” (vermin, pests + pygmies and worms = vacuous and malleable but regressive firmament with the pretensions of being cultural elite/ born-again establishment). We guesstimate that it is telltale that  Pakistan is the only country in the South which enjoys  the inimitable distinction of producing two Paris biennial prize-holders, and both … dervish and lone  pathmakers in the realm of creativity  and in  terms of substantive art of consequence  …   are really ‘Naqvi’/Semitic.   And both of them  really  loved cosmopolitan Karachi (Query: what has become nowadays of that phenomenon?) and exemplarily preferred it by leaps and bounds  to the shown-schon of London, Paris, New York , even sexy Tokyo. This tremendous an  edge was not advantageously harnessed or properly harvested and projected by our fiefdom-oriented cultural commissars and vultural debutantes synonymous with Powers That Be whose abiding specialty has been mega foot-dragging and mean leg-pulling aforethought.

The syyed, Iqbal Geoffrey, is nevertheless, the only Paris Biennial Laureate left alive in mainland Asia-Pacific Triangle.  He is not interested either in razzle-dazzle or social shindigs ( call it ‘sin-digs’ a la  bits of geoffreyism condemning sectarianism of the Sloane crowd and consoling their itsy- bitsy wishy-washy Inbetweenties, ad infinitum). Geoffrey, our considered impression is, Loves a lot but nonetheless dislikes the rat race no less than racism. His Harvard Law School classmate London University Provost Sir Jeffrey Jowell (Her Majesty the Queen, in 2011, conferred Knighthood of the Grand Order of St. George and St. Michael)   describes him as “Much, much, much more than a genius”.  The London Times [1985] has nobly mentioned thus: “Never since Leonardo da Vinci has there been an artist of his intellect and genius for art!!!.  Fifteen years earlier, outstanding art historian William Gaunt praised his art [1962] in the Times, London as “Distinguished”. Geoffrey was only twenty-one then and living in London. He turned 73 on January 1, 2012 and now-a-days the Arts Counsel of Great Britain camps in Lahore (The City of the Shalimar Gardens).

Be that as it may, his art ‘supraConceptual fusions, Hyper-Occurrences and thought-Renditioning’ (to recall his terminology) remains a solid Ten ought (Out or out) of 10. In that art takes the given further, it is certainly not a statement but state of art Restatement. It pertains to conviction and options and possibilities – – now and in future.  Distances in suchlike developments only translate into confluence of know-things and responsible consciousness regardless of after-effects.

It is worth recalling that not only Geoffrey has been the pioneering catalyst of Post-Conceptual Art in Europe (during the Sixties), he initiated those advanced process systems during the Fifties in Pakistan. His art titles by themselves are far-reaching. Direct-dialling, out-of-town (out of sight but not out of mind) artworks, for example, ‘Virginia Woolworth’ or ‘The Sands Where the Diamonds Grow’. Here just the title is itself an independent work of art. Contact is farmed and established which communicates in absentia over long-distance. The idea is the road map to changing change. Concept ameliorates, erases the intervening distance. Separation and segregation are rectified and dismissed. It constantly ratifies  just change for the better.  This phenomenon goes beyond museum without the walls. Here the idea per se, becomes a museum by and in itself, and does not diminish into a mausoleum of strait-jackets, or of stray culminations and combines.

During l968-69 Geoffrey demonstrated his art at (as then known) The Lahore Intercontinental (now Pearl Continental Hotel), where the frames and pedestals were seemingly “empty” (so to speak), and just titles (mixed with your imagination as the medium) were the indication, content, as well as the Rendition.  For example: “The Painting Is Swimming in the Arabian Sea!”, or ‘Taking A Dip in the Hotel Pool’. One artwork even titled: “The Painting Within is on The Righteous Way To Fulham in Order to Spank Jasia Reinhardt”.  All this stirred a noble riot and a rush of Pakistan’s make-believe Elite ensued to the Hotel Intercontinental’s Bar Room (there was no Hypocrisy of  Prohibition then in Pakistan). The University of Cornell educated (MBA in Hotel Management)  General Manager (vividly recalling the Geoffrey One-Man Show at the E.M. Pei designated Johnson Museum of Art at Cornell, then called White Art Museum of the Hotel later) wrote  that the Hotel generated more liquor sales that day than in its entire history. That signified Geoffrey’s significant contribution to freedom of expression.

At a factual level, if not technically, all art – being a mosaic of revelations – involves elements of  collage/’collaging’/ combinations / derivatives / assemblage and some collegiality of communication, consisting of the eclectic, the esoteric and the original forces derived from several sources and driving other resources. His Excellency Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan declaims that ‘Geoffrey excels and commands suzerainty in the domain of collage-making’. “His collages are accumulation and culmination of painstaking search and wider research spreading over decades. His collages – – combining the conceptual with the configuring are more than the sum (and some!) total of their parts or participants. The significant content, more often than not, includes YOU and therein many factors galvanize into foibles which portray and project innate wisdom combined with future aforethought”, wrote Dr.  Antonia Windsor Blackwell.  No wonder – – and no question – – that he enjoyed great fans like Marcel Duchamp and Kim Novak. Eminent British-American art critic Bryan Robertson hailed him as ‘the best artist to emerge from the Indic subcontinent’.

One of the greatest judges and scholar of Common Law Jurisprudence, the Right Honorable Judge Thomas K. Williams of Cleveland acknowledged [1972] that: “Iqbal Geoffrey has done things in life that we dreamed of doing but could not dare”. 

In continuation of that new stream of formulating storey/s on stories within stories (never conforming to the mainstream that is leaking profusely), which intelligently grasps and bridges the gulf that separates ideas from expression, art from life; the ‘Self=Portraiture’ by Geoffrey (displayed in this off-the-beaten tracks Exhibition at the Koel, imitated by a host of sexy copy-cats, pre-empting the catwalk with  obscene haste while depicting galvanized gal as the real think) speak/s  for themselves, to wit:

With passage of time the artist retains the unconditional prerogative, and reserves the unfettered, exclusive right to repaint, amend or alter these artworks (and change/improve their titles) as and when he may deem fit.

  Here even the token price-tags make and undertake a difference and bespoke provocative  references. For a straw example, the larger the canvas, the less it costs. These artworks are fabricated with thoughts cerebrally accumulated, imaginatively filed over several  decades and carefully executed with pain, paint and prized accoutrements and spiced with wisdom liberally culled from four corners of the world; for no person is, nor should be, an isolated island on the planet Earth.

Fact of the matter remains intact that the Self-Portraiture by Geoffrey is really-really all about you. Pioneering Geoffrey does not flexi-function like self-seeking juggernauting Gangadins who are always  ostensibly singing, sinning and spinning for the (in reality repressed) silenced majority. And banking their unjust enrichment in offshore accounts and tax havens.

Indomitable Iqbal Geoffrey has resisted nascent fiefdoms and turf control profoundly but  calmly. Nonetheless, he robustly depicts the future of our tomorrows (The Day Shall Dawn!)  with avant-garde hindsight, visual witticism, sensual delight and scholarly inquiry at numerous levels. Unique artists empathetically and routinely reject Que Sera Sera as chorus, agenda, modus operandi and disguised propaganda as well as commercial elitism and copycat drolleries of make-believe. They stand well over and above the cultural morass of mediocrity. Aesthethical analysis becomes the ultimate barometer of worthiness.

On the other legerdemain, artistic genius of Geoffrey (who condenses sea-change into a can, yeni’ke: cooza mein darya karein hein bandd)) resisting crackdown on talent (exception proving the rule) by the dedicated merit-busters, institutionally-dominant contemporary art histrionics (and many other bustards … wink!), in a nutshell, remains the soul dasta’ngo  (kind storyteller with  advanced knowhow)  of your future. For more than half a century he has maintained that his art is criticism of Art criticism. He does not marrow line ( forte of Bernard Buffett and the price is-the-content cabal of charlatans and miscellaneous rascals) nor takes line for a walk (that was brilliantly accomplished by Paul Klee), Geoffrey, instead, takes the line for a joy ride. And verse!

Keep tricks of the trade little bit apart, to wit: separated and segregated.  Brush your antennas.  Behold your radars!! The Straight Path, not the shortcuts or diversionary disinformation, is the righteous way which translates into Sarate Musttaqueem.

Geoffrey’s favourite sms these days is: “changE cannot be given to you every time. You must bring  change!” announced Bashir Ahmed, a Bus conductor.  It applies, mutatis mutandis, to you and challenges the rest of the art world at large…

With due magnanimity, we conclude for now this short introduction reproducing a rhetorical question that Professor Norbert Lynton (Sussex University/ Royal College of Art) asked over half a century ago,  in 1962:

“Is there anyone in Modern Art to match Iqbal Geoffrey?”.

  • *British art  critic  who edited a  cutting-edge Monograph (described by formidable English art critic Sir Brian Sewell as the most impressive and magnificent art-book  from Asia) on the  exalted artist of our time) :  THE ART OF IQBAL GEOFFREY published under the authority of the State of Pakistan (pervasive doctrine of ‘Act of State’ applies) under  the aegis of the  Government of Pakistan Ministry of Culture  by the National Art Gallery/  Pakistan National Council for the Arts , F-5/1,  Islamabad  from which a copy may be ordered for subliminal  sum of  Rs 7860. 92 in the shape of a bank draft in favour of the PNCA/ Islamabad-44000; or loyally viewed and perused free of cost at the Koel Gallery. The Director General/CEO of the PNCA is obediently awaiting permission from the maestro for its public launching/ proverbial lynching (ceremonial breast-beating and synergized hissing  of the prevaricating indigenous  riff-raff providing semi-imported  background music).
  •  ** Eminent American art critic, Suellen W.  Liker (Phoenix), is editing along with Dr. Shana Sadiq (London), a brand new Monograph (itself a spellbinding work of art, Deo volente)  on the artist, authored by well-informed cultural scholars  DR. ABDUL QADEER KHAN, PROFESSOR QUDUS MIRZA and DOUGLAS PARK. This is  being published (to commemorate and felicitate  Geoffrey’s Solo Art Expressions  at THE Lahore Art Museum, 14 February  through May 14, 2012 and later at the Art Gallery of the National College of Art (May 27 through June 15, 2012 followed by  The University of Bradford ( Geoffrey is an outspoken alumnus of its world-famous Management School)  Art Gallery in the United Kingdom and thereafter several  leading art museums of the Occident)  by Topical Printers  in Lahore in conjunction with Rothenstein Barr & Merritt and The Royal Academy of Artists. An advance copy may be booked with the Koel Gallery, Karachi; at merely symbolic ( in Pak. Indian/Nepalese/Sri Lankan currency) Rs. 2620.00. During the forthcoming  Summer [2012]  ten deluxe  copies, authentically  autographed and graciously inscribed by all the participating  writers and editors,  will be available, Inshallah,  at US $7860.92 while the entire proceeds thereof  shall be  unconditionally and harmlessly – – sans specious hoopla – –  donated, courtesy the thoughtful publishers and  art devotees,  to the American Red Cross as the  Tharr (-TharParker)  coal-cash back  to Newcastle-upon-Hudson.
  • Since ‘ there is no such thing as good writing, only good rewriting’ (Dr Johnson), the original manuscript was lightly  proof-read and  slightly revised by  art  curator  Mohtrim Mohummed Iftikhar Hussain Rajpooot;  and Minnah Fatima Gardezi  whose contribution is  gratefully acknowledged. Both are advanced research scholars of the Iqbal Geoffrey University of Art Criticism and guest professors at the Hunerkada University of Fine Arts.  Any further improvements or take-offs regarding This Essay will be gratefully received ,  wholesomely appreciated,  accommodated liberally and credit properly  accorded!

2 responses to “‘Saddened Mona Lisa’ and other paintings – experimental art from Lahore

  1. good od Bugi Jii to find ought this well written art tea cull. geoffrey

  2. Wow that was strange. I just wrote an very long comment but after I clicked submit my comment didn’t appear.
    Grrrr… well I’m not writing all that over
    again. Anyways, just wanted to say great blog!

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