Kaleem Khan's Journey Within

Kaleem Khan, an alumnus of the National College of Arts, had the honour of studying under Khalid Iqbal and Collin David

Kaleem Khan's Journey Within

"The small city of Quetta has lots of stories and colours"

(Kaleem Khan)

The genre of landscape painting can be traced back to fourth-century China, and yet the tradition still beholds a charisma for the viewers and collectors. The new year 2024 starts with the opening of a spectacular landscape painting exhibition of Kaleem Khan – a prolific painter and educator for over four decades.

The exhibition entitled “A Journey Within” is curated by Imran Ahmed in the spacious Art Next Gallery, located in Defence Phase III in Lahore. There are 34 paintings on display, mostly landscapes and a few cityscapes and portraits in oil colours. The compelling works on display exhibit a captivating use of colours and masterful technique by Kaleem Khan. Although Khan uses on sight and photo references to paint, one is drawn to think what it is that these paintings offer that a camera cannot.

Kaleem Khan, an alumnus of the National College of Arts, had the honour of studying under Khalid Iqbal and Collin David. Like these maestros, Khan remains sincere to his passion of painting landscapes and portraits. He has an expansive portfolio spanning over four decades of painting portraits and the surroundings of the barren yet magnificent landscape of Quetta.

Khan’s landscapes feature several themes including sprawling mountains and vast lands, sceneries with traces of human dwellings (tents and traditional mud houses) in the distance, animals moving across the land and cityscapes with people engaged in their daily routines irrespective of the presence of someone arresting their moments.

Khan’s landscapes project a strong sense of distance yet the clarity and focus are remarkable. For example, human dwellings sit within the distance and yet the paintings clearly depict the activities happening at the moment the picture was clicked. While looking at the animals in motion, climbing or grazing among the snowy lands, the light captured in the painting of snowy day is ethereal and mesmerizing.

The exquisite colour palette and application shows off the excellence of his years of practice and command in capturing and reflecting the rich hues of desolate landscapes. One of the unique and outstanding characters of Khan’s landscape painting is his carefully-calculated yet dynamic brush strokes capturing the places and people in a way that makes the surface of the canvas glow. Looking at the land through Khan’s view, one cannot ignore noticing the alluring relationship between naturalistic and romantic views of the dry and arid lands. He possesses the ability to bring out the most beautiful aspects of the arid lands, which only bear patches of greenery in apple, cherry and almond orchids sprouting in certain months of the year. Otherwise, a cold, conservative and severely underprivileged place to live in and paint, Khan has found, developed, and nurtured a passion of painting these sceneries with lustrous hues.

Khan’s landscapes painted on-site and from photos taken from windows or rooftops depict time frozen in snow days and sometimes dusty afternoons. The scale of Khan’s paintings varies between a few inches to three feet – a size ideal and manageable for an easel painter for ease of portability.

The idea of leaving the city – the commotion and hustle and bustle of a chaotic environment – and seek peace in stillness is a spiritual tendency which comes strongly through Khan’s work. Painting landscape is a desire and act of relating and situating oneself in the vastness of nature that alludes to the Daoist idea of man’s relationship to nature seen in Chinese landscape painting. However, unlike the traditional Daoist landscape in which nature is grand and human presence miniscule, Khan’s landscapes are more humane and modest, speaking to the profundity of one’s inner connection to nature more closely.

Kaleem Khan’s “Journey Within” is the continuation of his acknowledgment and celebration of the beautiful land where he spent his life, dedicated to capturing his association to the land. The show is on display until 24 January 2024 – an opportunity to cherish and admire the beauty of land otherwise distant and unknown to many.

Besides teaching for last four decades in Balochistan University and serving as the director of Fine Arts at Balochistan University of Information Technology, Engineering and Management Sciences, Khan has also mentored many students preparing to pursue career in art, design and architecture at the Quetta Arts Council. Khan has exhibited his work nationally and internationally and has been the recipient of many awards as a recognition for his services to the fine arts of Pakistan, including Pride of Performance in 2006.

The author is an artist, art historian and academic, currently working as an Associate Professor at the Lahore School of Economics, Pakistan