Azeemi painting a portrait | Photos of the writer

“It’s not easy to paint by twisting a brush inside the bottle,” says Babar Azeemi, 43, his silver hair contrasting sharply with his black T-shirt. “I have to keep my hand steady because there is no possibility of erasing the inside of the bottle. One slip can ruin the whole picture.

Azeemi spends most of her day painting in her studio room on the roof of her house. The walls of his room are adorned with his paintings.

As he speaks, Azeemi delicately holds a thin glass bottle in one hand. With a brush balanced in his other hand, he is engrossed in the painting of master strokes within. By twisting and turning it, he manipulates the brush to create a portrait inside the bottle.

One day, Azeemi was very intrigued when she heard about an artist painting inside glass bottles in India. As he enjoys experimenting with different forms and expressions of art, he got hold of glass bottles and started taking on this challenge.

Not quite happy to paint on a flat canvas, Babar Azeemi learned to paint inside glass bottles

After much trial and error, finally in 1997, the first image to appear inside a bottle was that of Mohammed Ali Jinnah. Later, he also “bottled” images of Allama Iqbal, Maulana Mohammad Ali Jauhar, Mother Teresa and GM Syed.

Portraits inside glass bottles

As he often scours second-hand shops in search of used glass bottles, his friends now give them to him to paint inside. As social media platforms became mainstream, more and more people discovered his skills and commissions for bottle portraits started to arrive.

Along with painting inside bottles, Azeemi worked on realism and impressionism on canvas. But he resumed painting inside glass bottles during last year’s pandemic lockdown, giving him more free time.

Currently, he has several commissions for portraits inside bottles of some politicians and important figures in Sindh. “It takes 2 to 5 days and a lot of patience to paint a portrait inside a bottle,” Azeemi explains. I am also working on a portrait of Benazir Bhutto.

Azeemi carefully manipulates the brush to paint inside a glass bottle

His previous work as an artist depicts rural scenes on canvas and a series on the Thar. Azeemi combines the linear quality of the traditional past with the experimental challenges of the modern art form. Using charcoal, oil and watercolor combined with various techniques such as layer upon layer application, overlapping and surface scraping, many of her paintings depict oriental feminine beauty, birds and instruments. of music.

After studying the poetic compilation of the late Sindhi scholar Kalyan Advani by Shah Jo Risalo by Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai, and its Urdu translation by Sheikh Ayaz, Azeemi brought characters such as Marvi, Moomal, Sassui, Noori, Sohni to life. and Punnu from Bhittai’s poetry.

After studying the poetic compilation of the late Sindhi scholar Kalyan Advani by Shah Jo Risalo by Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai, and its Urdu translation by Sheikh Ayaz, Azeemi brought characters such as Marvi, Moomal, Sassui, Noori, Sohni to life. and Punnu from Bhittai’s poetry. Based on their attributes of bravery, passion, loyalty, commitment and strength of character, he visualized what these cultural icons in Sindh history would look like. For the first time, his lines and features created their images on the canvas.

Azeemi has not received any formal training for the art. When he was only eight years old, his father took him to learn painting at a sign store in Tando Mohammad Khan, Azeemi’s hometown.

Azeemi’s paintings depicting oriental female beauty, birds and musical instruments

“I learned the basics of art from local artists such as Usman Ali Khaskheli, Ashiq Ali and Iqbal Ahmad Farooqi, who had their own sign painting workshops in Tando Mohammed Khan,” he recalls. “Most parents generally want their kids to be engineers or doctors, but my dad wanted me to be an artist. He wanted me to work hard and make a name for myself by doing something different.

In Tando Mohammad Khan in particular at this time, art was limited to painting panels or live portraits. “Local artists had no idea of ​​developments or trends in the art world,” he says. “People thought that an artist could not earn money to feed his family and therefore did not encourage young people to pursue art. They wanted their children to choose gainful professions.

Azeemi remembers the years when, as a young artist, he couldn’t support his family and was told to use his time to do something worthwhile. “It was a very difficult time,” he says. “I worked in a sign store for five years. It was hard to keep money aside to buy paints and brushes, but I was sure I still wanted to be an artist.

Eventually, with orders for paintings on canvas and portraits in bottles, his finances improved. “I learned that you have to keep working hard and never give up hope in the face of adversity,” says Azeemi.

Azeemi has exhibited his work in Tando Mohammed Khan, Karachi and Malaysia. “I was deeply honored when Aftab Zafar, the renowned artist from Karachi, came to see my work at my first art exhibition at Tando Mohammad Khan in 1999,” he says.

He intends to do in-depth work on Sindh folk traditions and Shah Jo Risalo characters, but he also wants to create an art institution or academy in Tando Mohammed Khan, where art would be taught for free. to those who cannot afford it. art class.

Azeemi’s ambitions are great and it seems he’s only scratching the surface to achieve them.

The writer is a freelance journalist and tweets @RehmatTunio

Posted in Dawn, EOS, December 26, 2021

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