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ZAHOOR UL AKHLAQ (1941-1999)
PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE COLLECTION, OHIO
ZAHOOR UL AKHLAQ (1941-1999)

Composition 166

Details
ZAHOOR UL AKHLAQ (1941-1999)
Composition 166
inscribed and titled 'Composition 166 Zahoor-ul-Akhlaq oil National College of Arts Lahore (Pakistan); further inscribed in Urdu and dated 3/12/63; bearing partial label of a New York Gallery (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
60 x 30 in. (152.4 x 76.2 cm.)
Painted in 1963

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Lot Essay

Painter, sculptor, and print-maker Zahoor ul Akhlaq was undoubtedly one of the most significant artists working out of Pakistan during the latter 20th century whose profound artistic and conceptual influence has shaped contemporary art practice for following generations, including Shazia Sikander and Rashid Rana. Zahoor was influenced by the master calligrapher Yusuf Dhelvi, whose work he was exposed to as a child and later underwent a Modernist phase under Shakir Ali at the National College of Arts (NCA). Zahoor's extensive knowledge and interest in the indigenous vernacular and tradition, as well as contemporary Western thought led to his deconstruction and re-appropriation of the classical miniature allowing him to be classified as one of the pioneers of the neo-miniaturist genre. "In Lahore, Zahoor ul-Akhlaq brought Post-Modern ideas to the forefront in the 1970's and '80's. At NCA, he insisted on miniature painting's relevance and viability as a source for contemporary artists. His own paintings took elements from the miniature tradition and combined them with an abstract painterly style." (Ali, Atteqa, "Postmodernism: Recent Developments in Art in Pakistan and Bangladesh," In Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000, http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/pmpk/hd_pmpk.htm (October 2004).

Though influenced by sources as far-ranging from Mark Rothko and Jasper Johns to Rene Descartes, Zahoor was interested in interrogating formal traditions in Islamic arts (calligraphy, geometric abstraction, architectural structures, spatial perspectives). In Composition 166, an early and formative work by the artist following his graduation from the National College of Arts, Lahore, Akhlaq uses thick impasto alongside abstract bold calligraphic lines etched through the thick gray layers of paint. The illuminating words in this painting may portray the Muslim belief in noor, a bright light that represents Allah, the Creator. The first and last letters of the Arabic alphabet, alef and ya symbolize the notion of God as the Beginning and End, and bears a strong influence from Zahoor's celebrated mentor, Shakir Ali.

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