The recently held exhibition of the works of Mansur Aye at ArtKaam Gallery was a rich tribute to the artist and a treat for the art lovers. It showcased nearly 45 rare paintings of the artist.
His watercolour and chemical drawings are portraits of a woman with various notions and angles. The expression on each painting is a window to the inner soul with a unique characteristic of a personality. It talks about anguish, pain, submission and in some cases total oblivion to the outside world. His images also speak of hope, purity, love, beauty and joy.
Some of his work of late 90s talks about solitude and melancholy where the portraits seem to be sad and lonely. His images reflect both urban and rural culture with a striking balance of colour in two shades, monochrome and multi-hued.
Aye was born in 1941 in Delhi, but lived most of his life in Karachi where he worked and where he passed away in 2008 at age 67.
A self-taught artist Aye eschews any association with a school or style. Still, his works are reminiscent of the early Cubists and Expressionists like Kirschner, and there are even echoes of the Monsignor of Cubism Picasso in Aye’s renderings of his Moon-faced muse. The fragmented faces are what bring about this association, with minimal outlining and spontaneity of brushstroke; however Aye’s work displays none of the tension and angst so often present in pure Cubist form, which again could come back to the gentle nature of the man himself. His pencil sketches are more aligned with Cubist style than his paintings, but it is in his paintings where Aye’s work really comes alive because color was Aye’s strong suit. He understood how to bring movement and vibrancy in an effortless style, with an innate ability to convey vitality to a canvas without losing a sense of calm in the work. Warm sepias and palettes of blue were regular color schemes for the artist, who liked to work with a variety of media, from oil on canvas to watercolor, pencil drawing and even chemical etchings.
Aye was first exhibited at the Arts Council in Karachi in 1962 with fellow artist and close friend Jamil Naqsh, and the following year was awarded third prize for his painting entered into the National Art Exhibition in Rawalpindi. A relatively unknown side of Aye’s career is his interest in animation and cartoon drawing, which he devoted a lot of time to in the early 70s. He remained active as an artist right up until ill health made it impossible. He enjoyed experimentation, and was known to try his hand at print making, even making his own paper in his washing machine! He made baked clay faces to print on paper and was eager to explore all avenues when it came to his art.