"A well drawn figure fills you with a pleasure which is absolutely divorced from its subject. Whether voluptuous or awe-inspiring, this figure will owe its entire charm to the arabesque which it cuts in space. So long as it is skillfully drawn, there is nothing - from the limbs of a martyr who is being flayed alive, to the body of a swooning nymph- that does not admit the kind of pleasure in whose elements the subject matter plays no part."
A canvas, an easel, brushes, paints - tools of a painter. Smells of paints and turpentine, all create a strong, seductive aroma in my studio, my kingdom. Here I play my game by my rules. I paint. To my heart’s content until I am able to express my feelings, my emotions, my pain, my pleasure, my agony, my ecstasy. I am in total control or so I believe until my creation blossoms into a life of its own and takes over; a life that soon becomes an extension of my very own existence. I let myself drift and soon my ability, my conscious self, subconsciously takes me to new dizzying heights of art and self expression. Through my paintings I lay bare my soul, my being, my reason for living. Slowly, I pick up the missing pieces, start learning the secrets of a painter’s language and, when my art is noticed, appreciated, exhibited, the doubts, the nightmares that lurk inside me while I paint, wither away, vanish. I am rejuvenated, reborn, recharged. Only to plunge again, in the icy but enticing ocean of art.
"Art is an act of Peace"
Julian Schnabel, contemporary Cuban master.
In the early years of Farrukh Shahab's life painting was looked upon as just a leisure time hobby. Although some artists had made a great name for themselves, their survival as artists had been an uphill struggle. His parents were keen for him to study and pursue a bankable profession and he had chosen commerce as his field. He lived in Nazimabad, a suburb of Karachi, which in those days was a small hub of art, literature and cultural activities. Karachi School of Arts, then the premiere art institution of the city was located there. The great artist Sadequain and Eqbal Mehdi lived there; as did a number of other artists, writers and poets. Sadequain's calligraphy adorned the headboard of nearby Ghalib Library. Influenced by this environment and his elder brother who was a budding artist, Farrukh took up painting and joined a handful of students under Eqbal Mehdi. Soon art became his obsession. He loved
his Ustad's studio, the aroma of paints, turpentine, the touch and feel of the brushes, the sight of colours, pigments and of course the canvas, where all action took place. It was magical and mystical for him. Slowly he became different from the other boys who were into sports and other youthful pursuits. His art interest led to criticism and even ridicule. This instead of dampening his spirits made him strong and more determined to be a painter. He completed his graduate study in Commerce in 1986 while continuing to paint and exhibiting his work in a small way as well.
The turning point in Farrukh Shahab's life came the same year in a Sindh artists' group exhibition. His 'Portrait of a boy' was adjudged the best work by noted art critic, Amjad Ali, who wrote: "The colour treatment is noteworthy. It is smooth and even with no brushwork visible, and the colour is almost monochrome ..... he (the artist) captures the personality of the subject, which comes alive forcefully." There was no turning back from then
on. Shahab made up his mind to be an artist. He started his career cautiously working at what he was comfortable and sure with, portraits and landscapes, thanks to his mentor, Eqbal Mehdi, who was a master in this field. In a review of an exhibition of five Eq bal Mehdi' s students at the Arts Council, Karachi in 1992, the well-known art critic Hameed Zaman observed: "Farrukh Shahab has a fascination for light and shade, evoking an emotional tension in his portraits of damsels in distress. He is primarily interested in human faces, both beautiful and rugged. His "Thari Woman' is as expressive as his urban bride."
It was not long before Shahab began attracting art patrons, dignitaries, institutions and multinationals who sought him out chiefly for commissioned work: portraits, landscapes, historical buildings and monuments.
In the past 20 years painting has been the essence of the artist's life; his existence, his reason for being. While painting he feels immense joy and pleasure. His feelings and emotions become his motivation and inspiration in his work. He is filled with an aesthetic and artistic energy along with a continuous sense of awe and wonder. The obsessed artist in him nurtures all these forces within him in a tangible direction to create forms, faces, figures, images, emerging in a series of artworks which make him standout as an artist of substance. He feels free,
I confident and strong to move with the : flow of his creations. His ethical and ~ social awareness, pursuit of knowledge,
keen observation and constant experimentation have led him to new heights of creations. Shahab's judicious, sparing and parsimonious selection of colours: gray, blue, amber and pastel make his art so totally different from say that of Ahmad Zoay's dazzling bright ones. Shahab believes painting is like construction, first making the foundation strong and then building it brick by brick, painstakingly and with an eye for detail completing the structure. His work reflects this belief and many appear as such, structurally painted but visually poetic. His study of art through the ages, from the earliest carvings, cave drawings, sculptures, and ethnic art has been a great influence in painting human forms, figures and faces; ancient, chiseled and expressive.
From the 'Portrait of a boy' to his current extraordinary and exquisite line of paintings, 'Concatenation' at the spacious 'Art Scene' gallery in Karachi, has been a 20-year long, arduous and fruitful journey in the life of Farrukh Shahab as an artist. His latest work is a series of paintings uniting at once spiritual and sensual, beautiful and brazen, simple and complex, chaste and ornate creating a dreamy, languid and timeless mood. Some of the images are psychedelic and kaleidoscopic. There are paintings in the spaces of a door, endless images on wood, surrealist figures and elements of nature. The colours are varied, in addition to his signature gray tones, blue, amber; there are also splashes of bright and plenty of coffee colours.
His quest and passion for art has taken him to all parts of Pakistan and abroad; India, UK, Europe and USA. On these trips Shahab literally immersed himself in the art world, visiting museums and galleries. He was fascinated by the works of great artists, from the renaissance to the modern masters. He also admires some of the contemporary artists. Shahab as a painter has clawed his way to where he stands high up today. First firmly taking a footing before moving to the next height; Step by step, stroke by stroke, line by line, colour by colour, using all the tools of his trade and some, as ifhis life depended on them. Today his paintings adorn the walls of the World Bank in Washington D. C., offices of multinational companies, 5star hotels, elite clubs and homes of the rich and famous. Shahab being an activist has also generously donated his work to raising funds for charitable organizations, Earth Quake survivors, Operations Theater Complex (Civil Hospital), Amnesty International and several others. Success has not come easy but success has made him more focused, more dedicated, more committed to his art, which is also the joy and love of his life.