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The brush runs into the bullet

The shades of blue in the shimmering waters of the Dal, the flaming orange of Chinar leaves and the translucent white of snow have all dissolved into a new colour on Kashmir's canvas. Ashutosh Sapru tells more. Special Coverage

india Updated: Nov 26, 2008 01:38 IST
Ashutosh Sapru

The shades of blue in the shimmering waters of the Dal, the flaming orange of Chinar leaves and the translucent white of snow have all dissolved into a new colour on Kashmir's canvas.

Art is laced with blood.

When I was a young man in the Valley, the beauty of Kashmir shine through in the canvases and sculptures of all of us who went to Art College. We would struggle to capture Kashmir in all its colours.

My teacher Masood Hussain is still with the College of Music and Fine Arts, Srinagar – now a famous artist. I asked him how things had changed.

"The new lot of canvases are very grim --- disturbed forms, sober colours," he said of his students, mostly in their early 20s, reflecting what they saw around them.

But little children are deeply affected as well.

"They use a lot of brooding blacks and angry reds on the canvases," said Shireen Jan, an art teacher for third and fourth standard students at the Tyndale Biscoe school in Srinagar.

Yusuf Nakshbandi, who teaches art at the same school to senior classes, said: "Even the most innocent posters and collages capture the tension these young people have been born into and the political twist they see in everything. Recently they had to prepare a collage. It turned out that a lot of them chose wrestling as the theme and substituted the faces of politicians for wrestlers."

Malik Sajad, a 20-year-old man who has been drawing a daily editorial cartoon for a local newspaper since for the past five years, is working on a graphic novel describing his encounter with an elderly man whose son was allegedly killed and subsequently falsely identified as a terrorist by the Indian army.

Hussain's work includes the 30-feet-high almond shaped fountain sculpture at Badamwari with "Allah" written in calligraphy across it. But even an artiste of his stature had to face the churning of the state's politics.

Then-Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad had commissioned two more projects supported by the J&K Bank at the Ghantaghar -- a 40 ft abstract fountain sculptor Ar- Raheem, and a horizontal panel depicting the history of Kashmir and all the religions and communities that had made the Valley its home.

"The project faced serious opposition from other political parties and even a section of the people," Masood said. It could not take off.

Among's Husain's notable works is the 'Lonely Sharika' which depicted the goddess Sharika, an army cap before her doing the job of an incense holder. But the work that caught my eye did not have any religious overtones. Two wooden windows typical of Kashmiri homes, broken and battered, a piece of sky in between, and a row of outstretched hands just below.

"The Kashmiri people searching for their lost culture," said Hussain.