Wednesday, November 26, 2008


by Sehrish Chaudhary

Colin David's mortal body left this world on 25 Feb., 2008 but his soul breathes in his art and people.
Colin was one of those good adroit painters who fashioned human anatomy with skill and imagination. Like Ustad Allah Baksh, Sadiqain, Shakir Ali, Saeed Akhtar, Colin portrayed women figure as a special element in his paintings, a superb draftsman with a technical perfection that is all too rare. According to Marjorie Husain, an art critic, Colin used to paint non traditional style in the highly censored environment created by Gen. Ziaul Haq which consolidated his position as the most popular artist in that period.
Colin was born in Karachi in 1937; he began his art education at the University of Punjab when the fine arts department opened its door to male students in 1956. According to Niilofer Farrukh, he once ran away from home because his father, a journalist, did not allow him to take up art as a profession. Colin David was among the first group of three young men who were taught by Khalid Iqbal, and by Anna Molka Ahmed who highly appreciated the talented trio. Prof. Anna Molka involved them in many of her Department’s projects and in later years, spoke of their success with pride.

After his masters, Colin got an opportunity to study in UCL where he was guided by Sir William Cold Stream, an artist who painted in "Euston Road" group style. There Colin got opportunity to paint from life and found his artistic meter. It was the time when Naz Ikramullah was taking a course of Lithography at the Slade, and Colin mentioned meeting her in letters home.
Returning to Pakistan in 1962 Colin rejoined the Faculty of Fine arts of the University of Punjab, and remained there till 1964. Later differences with Anna Molka Ahmed caused him to leave the Fine Arts Department of the university and he joined the National College of Arts, where Shakir Ali was the Principal. Colin remained there, being an integral part of the college for quarter of a century.

In those times of experimentation Colin developed a unique, distinctive style which showed his own inclination. His first solo exhibition, a collection of figure studies in oils painted with great luminosity was held in Karachi in 1970 at "The Gallery" where Colin gathered high praise and great appreciation. His work in the genre of the nude inspired new art collectors. The element of design in a form of "figure" always creates balance and harmony in his compositions. Sense of space was an important subject in his paintings. Colin explored the female figure as a symbol of beauty and presented "women as women".

Colin successfully portrayed the sensitive studies of children at play. In one of his paintings he portrayed a child eating toffee without unwrapping the sweet thing, chubby fingers persevering, and an expression of total single mindedness on child's face, the depiction of this innocence through masterly acts of his brush, attracted UNICEF’s interest in his work. Many of his art pieces went to foreign art collectors.

It was ironical that in his life many a times he was obliged to hold exhibition at his home and unnamed spots for selected audience since he was unable to show his work publicly. Once he said "In the earlier stages of my career when figure painting was artistically acceptable, my exhibitions were always highly successful. The public understood and appreciated my work. They still do of course, but it means my exhibitions become elitist."
In his last days, despite of bad health, Colin continued to work and exhibited his art work in Karachi and remained popular.

Time goes, you say? Ah, no! Alas, time stays, we go.
                          (Henry Austin Dobson)

*The writer is an artist and an art teacher. She has held three consecutive exhibitions of her work in Lahore.  
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