Connections ~ Zahid Mahmood Mayo

Zahid: I’m here for my exhibition, I was wondering if I can see u. I need to tell people over here about the show or u can just guide me about the art market here. ūüôā

AliZaidiArts: Zahid I know nothing about the art market! By all means if you are around come visit me, lets have tea or coffee and tell me about what you are doing.

AZA FaceBook page is finally proving to be more than just the LIKE button. I am beginning to truly connect with people. Zahid Mayo¬†is a fine artist/painter from Pakistan who visited me yesterday as I was working on my allotment (first day of breaking up the compacted soil). Lovely twinkly eyes and a heart warming smile. A recent graduate from NCA (my alma mater), he grew up in a little village in Gujranwala a city close to Lahore. Much to the bemusement of his farming parents, aged five, he was dabbling in drawing. Mayo is an unusual name, turns out it links to a region where his¬†Rajput¬†ancestors came from. Rajputs are¬†believed to be the descendants of Hindu warrior clans. Zahid warred… his war was with his father to allow him to go study arts and pursue his desire of being an artist. His father shrugged the idea as, “what kind of education is this”. Being the eldest son in a family of six, he had to shoulder responsibility. And Zahid had dreams other than looking after his family buffalos and requirement of marriage and reproduction. He was good at calligraphy and firmly believed that with his talent of drawing he could go to Lahore, earn and study. So he said goodbye to his family and came to Lahore to follow his dream.

Zahid met Mehmood Hassan Rumi (then the Principal at¬†Naqsh School of Arts)¬†who saw his sketches, gave him sound advice and a place at the school straight away.¬†A tough cookie to crack for a boy passionate about his art, couple years later he joined NCA. It was wonderful to hear stories about his experience of being there under the guidance of some of my ex-colleagues who were his teachers. Invaluable time he spent there full of joys and tribulations. Glad that he has graduated and it is over. He won’t be burning his paintings any more for the frustration he felt, of an ‘institution’ hell bent to conform his practice in preparation for an imagined ‘arts market’. He is free to express and experiment how he wishes now.

To sustain the living of his dream; his college fees, living and art material costs, he did illustration commissions, posed as drawing model, painted family portraits, made sculptures… continued to lick up books. From an early age he was attracted to Shia faith and fascinated by their various rituals and writings, he attended majlis¬†and other gatherings. In a way he was the ‘different one’, because of his curiosities. Being seen as the other, he was the lonely one!¬†Having come from a small village, Zahid was freaked out by the sheer volume of people in Lahore. So many so many lonely people together on the streets. Together but carrying their loneliness. He always liked to draw people and in his new home, the crowds became his inspiration. For his thesis, he painted Muharram crowds on canvases. This translation is not merely a literal one or for his religious preferences but he is looking at others to review his otherness. By painting these crowds and tableaux Zahid is transforming the rituals into creating a space which is almost unreal, surreal and evocative. I can not but help read in to them, Pakistan’s recent political situation, targeted Shia massacre and the fear of the other.¬†His painted crowds remind me of starling flocks to the skies at dusk, flying together for their safety in numbers to avoid the predators. There is a vulnerability in his images, there is equally well an excitement in the close proximity of bodies in space, the darkness which is suggestive of gestures and shapes.

I am looking forward to the opening tomorrow and seeing these surfaces in person. Zahid applied for an open call submission to No Barking aRT Biennale. No Barking Art Production is a not-for-profit art production organisation producing projects to showcase artists mainly from UK, Europe and Asia.  

The biennale runs from 17th – 22nd of April 2014. Zahid is around till then… come and meet him in person and see the work. And if you get a chance, talk to him about his immersive installation ideas!¬†Glad that he is part of my orbit now. Viva social media!!




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