Saturday 6 April 2013

Urdu Poetry, Art and Inspiration

Urdu Poetry, Art and Inspiration

Mughal Chest box at The Craft Company

 I was never taught Urdu in school but enjoyed listening to Urdu ghazal or poetry put to music with my father when I was younger. With time I must have lost interest until one day in college at McGill in Montreal, bored with completing some dry assignment, I came across a bookshelf in the library with a few Urdu books. One of the books I picked up The True Subject was a translation of poetry by Faiz Ahmed Faiz done by Naomi Lazard. The book itself was simple; the Urdu verse written on one side and its translation in English on the other. But to me it was like a key to the Urdu words I used to think were impossible to decipher. Thus started my interest in Urdu Poetry and I went on to find many more translations and spent many snowy  afternoons in the cold winter solving the complex encryption of Urdu poetry. Imagery in Urdu poetry is a language of its own and symbols are used to convey a kaleidoscope of emotion. I confess I never went as far as discovering more contemporary Urdu poets, but often when I paint I like to form the Urdu words of classical poetry  in my head and let my mind wander through the landscape of  images and metaphors my synapses create.

There is a very famous poem by Faiz called

Gulon mein rang bhare baad-e-naubahaar 
Chale bhi aao ke gulshan ka kaarobaar chale

let the blooms fill with colour, let the first zephyr of spring flow
do come over, so the garden can get on with its daily business

that brings together nature and human feeling in a most intimate and animated way. I like to think about nature conspiring with human emotion so that flowers droop in expectation and a soft breeze curls in excitement. My hand wanders with the same spontaneity over my watercolor as the colors the Urdu couplets bring to my mind. 

This particular painting started off with an idea that sprung from this Ghalib couplet.

Sab kahan kuch lala-o-gul main numayan ho gayien 
Khak mein kyaa sortein hon gee k pinhan ho gayien

Not all, only a few have become evident as tulips and roses;
What images may lie in the dirt that remains hidden from us?

It makes me think about death and the cycle of life, not as a morbid pantomime but more as nature’s secret celebration, hiding its intricate industry of continuation.
Much of the design I use for the Craft Company has its inspiration in this natural paisley that has its roots in ancient design in India and Pakistan. I feel the conversation does not end with just poetry and art but continues with every aspect of life and the things I create.

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