Arshad Sauleh presents his paintings at the Sauleh Art Gallery. KO photo by Syed Mohammad Burhan.

Arshad’s paintings are exhibited in all European countries and in the United States. More than thirty of his paintings and original reproductions are exhibited there in private collections..

ARSHAD Sauleh sits on a traditional carved wooden sofa and talks to another foreign artist. Her portrait overlooks the room full of creative canvases. The man has had his brushes with some of the best artists in the world, like Jatin Das and Jay Jarotiya, and yet he looks humble and keeps a low profile.

Arshad, who teaches art at the Government College of Education in Srinagar, recently participated in the international Indo-Iranian art and calligraphy competition held on 43rd Anniversary of the Islamic Revolution where his works were awarded by the Iranian Cultural House in Mumbai.

“My art is my heritage because my father was a high caliber artist,” says the artist.

His father was a papier-mâché craftsman and had created over three hundred models and mentored over 250 craftsmen in Kashmir.

Soon after his birth in the Khankah locality of Srinagar in 1971, Arshad followed in his father’s footsteps and became a master of the art.

Arshid’s work at Mahattas. KO photo by Syed Mohammad Burhan.

In his early childhood, Arshad realized that he had a tendency to draw objects and paintings. “I was only five years old when I realized I could paint or draw,” he recalls in his room filled with artwork. “I used to draw on all surfaces, whether it was a paper, a wall or any other surface. I tried to draw on everything possible.

The drawing was the expression of his acute sense of observation as well as the expression of his DNA. “My father had high aesthetic taste and sensitivity,” he recalls with a gleam in his eye. “He realized that I had a talent for sketching and drawing and he gave me the freedom I wanted. I think there were instinctive forces in me that always forced me to paint and To draw.

A self-taught artist in his early days, he drew landscapes, portraits, figurative art and symbolic landscapes. His father left no stone unturned and provided him with everything he needed to pursue his career.

“There was no shortage of painting materials at our house because of my father’s papier-mâché art studio,” he says. “The tools only gave wings to my imagination.”

Landscape calligraphy. KO photo by Syed Mohammad Burhan.

At the time, the cloth merchants in his locality threw away their mound boards after selling the cloth. He used to pick up the whiteboards because it was a good surface to work on.

“Until then, I was self-taught,” he says. “Later I drew portraits using oil medium, acrylic medium and paints on canvas before joining college.”

When he saw sign painters painting with enamel paint, he was inspired to draw portraits. He remembers seeking answers from his teachers in Kashmir and abroad.

Entering the Institute of Music and Fine Arts in 1992, he does not hesitate to recall his tributes to his mentors and teachers.

“I was mentored by MA Mehboob and Shuja Sultan,” he recalls. “At that time, our college was headed by the eminent sculptor of the valley, the late Gayoor Hassan.”

The college teachers appreciated his work and realized that he had the interest and the talent to choose painting as a subject. “I had a choice to make between commercial art, sculpture, painting or the arts,” says Arshad. “I took the painting.”

Arshad calligraphy. KO photo by Syed Mohammad Burhan.

Arshad’s rendezvous with calligraphy began after he saw an artwork at the Iranian Embassy in New Delhi in 1992 and was inspired by it. He calls it a turning point in his life.

“Although I was inspired by this work of art, calligraphy was passed down to me from my grandfather,” he says. “He was a highly regarded calligrapher and I realized it was in my genes.”

After working on some of his works, he thought of doing something different and started doing calligraphic works in landscape paintings.

“I thought about instilling calligraphy in the landscape paintings,” says Arshad. “I realized it was doable.”

Recalling his first calligraphic painting around 1992, he says, it was Quranic calligraphy, with a verse: “Wama Arsalnaaka Illa Rehmatal Lil Aalameen.

Quranic calligraphy with landscape is something he never wants to give up.

Today, calligraphic paintings of Arshad with verses from the Quran are exhibited in many countries of Europe, the Gulf and Central Asia.

“I managed to make this model of paintings a success,” he says. “It’s so popular that some people think it’s the only subject I work on. But I also work on other subjects, such as realistic landscape, figurative paintings of surreal landscapes.

Arshad’s work. KO photo by Syed Mohammad Burhan.

For his creative work, Arshad was awarded the State Prize of the Cultural Academy three times. He was honored with awards from NN Vohra and SSBhagat, who was President of All India Fine Arts and Crafts Society, New Delhi.

“I received National Award from Raskala Manch, Haryana and Master of Award Honor from Artistry International in Jaipur,” he says.

Internationally, Arshad was selected for the Tenth International Artists’ Exhibition in Tehran in 2002. “Twenty-six countries participated in this event and I represented India. I was rewarded by then Iranian President Syed Mohammad Khatami,” he recalls.

A few years ago, the artist took part in an event organized in Lal Qila for the Guinness Book of World Records. He received a certificate and a medal from the Guinness book team.

To showcase his paintings and find customers for his works, Arshad worked on a creative space for himself and for art lovers.

He managed to create an art gallery on the top floor of his house. It is a collection of a wide range of paintings across different genres. Elaborating on the Sauleh Art Gallery which he named after his late father, he says, “I exhibited my hundred paintings in the gallery. Art lovers flock to my house and buy my paintings to hang in their homes.

Arshad also tried to guide students who show interest in the arts. “I teach over fifty students right now,” he says. “This includes both students pursuing an education and those pursuing art as a hobby.”

An artist, he says, uses art as a means of self-expression and is less concerned with bread-and-butter issues. But if someone works hard, says Arshad, he will find a way to support himself.

But unfortunately, the artist claims, there are very few art lovers in Kashmir who buy paintings.

“If there had been a government art gallery in Srinagar, art lovers would flock and buy paintings there,” he says. “It would also be an opportunity for them to see different paintings but unfortunately this is not the case.”

Arshad Sauleh in his living room. KO photo by Syed Mohammad Burhan.

The political turmoil and suffering of all those years had a huge impact on Arshad’s work, creating – what he calls – “the atmosphere of sadness” that engulfed his works.

“I couldn’t help but draw the turmoil because I was touched by people’s agony and sadness and probed the crisis,” Arshad says.

But despite the brothers’ pain, Kashmir’s art scene remains poor, he laments. “Unlike Kashmir, he continues, artists are appreciated in Europe, France, Austria, Germany, Italy, Belgium and the United States where a work will bring in fifty to a hundred times more money than here. . Artists can exhibit their work very easily in the West and can be generously compensated for it. »

Europeans, says Arshad, buy a work of art at a good price. “They don’t need to be persuaded,” he says. “Similarly, in Central Asia, Dubai is a good place for an artist. Similarly, Iran is an art center and Iranians appreciate art, but there are fewer opportunities there.

Arshad’s paintings are exhibited in all European countries and in the United States. More than thirty of his paintings and original reproductions are exhibited there in private collections.

“To go global,” Arshad says, “the artist has to be different and have to have individuality for people to like him.”

But without government intervention, the artist does not seem very optimistic about the artistic future of Kashmir.

“First and foremost, we need an art gallery in Srinagar and the government needs to start appreciation classes for young talent to come forward,” says Arshad.

“Art must become a corporate social responsibility and people must come forward and work for the promotion of art and artists in the valley. There should be art exhibits. If the talent of youth is channeled appropriately, we can create great artists. »

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Syed Mohamed Burhan

Syed Mohammad Burhan holds a master’s degree in mass communications and works as a City Reporter at the Kashmir Observer. He tweets @syedmohammad313


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