Pakistani Art Master to Make Cultural Statement


Rahi’s paintings not only create a mood of innovating new forms and illusion of values but also open a vision of free expression with spontaneous use of brush strokes. His present day work titled ‘Resurrect Rock Series’ in color and black and white starts in USA. It makes a change of vision by entering into classical realism from the non-evocative abstraction.


Recently a Mansur Rahi retrospective that covered the period from 1957 to 2009 was held at the National Art Gallery. This show held concurrently with his wife artist Hajra was titled Creative Melange.

While viewing Rahi’s work one is struck by the prevalent dichotomy. Conventionality as well as non- conformity to Cubism coexists within his artworks. So what does he borrow or reject from Picasso and Braque? Since his works are simultaneously imbued with these opposing attributes, a synchronized discussion is imperative. Cubism involves a fracturing of form along with its subsequent realignment into diminutive planes. A strong adherence to this is evident in works like The Thinker (1970) and the Wild Horse Series, while the series of drawings displays a certain degree of divergence from this standard. Both Picasso and Braque depicted a conceptual rather than perceptual view of nature and Rahi’s several paintings show an affinity with this outlook, one such example is Mother and Child (1975). Color is monochromatic in Analytical Cubism and much of Rahi’s works show a restrained use of color. A number of his paintings however, like Couple in Love (2002), show an augmented utilization of color that is analogous to Synthetic Cubism.

Now that the parallels albeit with some apparent deviations, have been drawn, the intense disparities need to be hammered out as well. Multiple view points are integral to Cubism; still Rahi chooses to disregard this paramount feature. For example, a simultaneous depiction of two horses with different views is seen in one of his pieces from the Wild Horse Series, but this varies from the essential cubist method of concurrently depicting several view points of a single subject. Moreover, Picasso and Braque left clues for viewers so that an intellectual engagement would be required to decipher it.

In Rahi’s work the subject is easily perceived, therefore the intellectual process begins after its recognition, unless his intention is based on a purely visual aesthetic in which case the cerebral is rejected in favor of the physical. Additionally, Cubism discards traditional perspective in an effort to avoid any imitation of nature and yet Rahi’s Grey Genesis Series is a testament to the pivotal role it commands within this particular body of work. Modeling was done away with for the same reason; still we come across it in Rahi’s drawings. Cubism portrays the presence of light in a distinctive manner as it seems to be radiating from within the planes. In contrast, the Wild Horse Series shows how Rahi uses the visual imagery of Rayonism to stress the presence of light and thus departs from the cubist convention of creating subdued light.

Rahi’s peripheral encounter with Cubism can be traced back to his academic period in works such as Portrait Study (1959). Blocks of color that constitute the face are rendered in an unambiguous manner which led his teacher Kibria to wonder whether he would later become a proponent of Cubism. Quite an accurate hypothesis, considering 50 years have gone by and the same blocks are still integral to his work. At this time he was studying at the Govt. College of Art and Craft, Dhaka. Earlier, he had completed his matriculation from Raj Shahi School, also in Dhaka. In 1964, he moved to Karachi and stayed there for 18 years. This initial phase of his career shows the impact of Zainul Abedin. One example is the impression Abedin’s impulsive drawings made upon Rahi. Moreover, Zainul Abedin was motivated by social and political events and this early period in Rahi’s career demonstrates a greater focus on thematic content such that social and political issues also became a major concern for him. His series like World Food Crisis, Soul in Hell and Struggle for Achievement are fall into this category. According to Rahi, these early years of his profession were marked by struggle which also appears in his works from that period. So, his representational as well as non-representational abstract works manifest an imitation of his life. Another characteristic
that strikes a similar chord between his work and that of his teacher Zainul Abedin, is the presence of a bold and clear outline.

The later phase of Rahi’s career began in 1983 when he changed his residence from Karachi to Islamabad. He describes this period as rather peaceful and therefore his art shifts from a portrayal of struggle to one of peace as mountains, beauty and romance began to be depicted in his work.

Rahi’s paintings and drawings depict abstraction yet the visual imagery remains representational, which marks another difference between his early work in Karachi and his later work in Islamabad. Such dissimilarities are amalgamated through an essence of Cubism that runs through his entire body of work, creating interplay of opposites.

Academic Realism, Cubical Fractionism, Analytic Cubism, Organical Period, Cubical Rayonistic Formalism, Neo-Cubo-Precisionism, Neo-Cubical Precisionism.

Purely structured with formally bold forms of mainly Human figure. Cubical Expression with rayonistic activity and Psychedelic tension of forms and colors which evolves in new form of illusion.


The above phases clearly define Mansoor Rahi's 52 years of work from his student life to the present day of 2009. These phases are a rare example of the artist's lifetime work of continuous research of innovative elements with the basic principles of exclusive self track. The most important significant of Rahi's track of evolution is the sustentations of his school of through throughout his career from 1957 to 2009.

Abstracts | Calligraphies | Doves | Figures | Landscapes | Miniatures | Monuments | Portraits | Still Arts


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