Artist Statement
To express reactions to life through the medium of paint is to integrate art and life.
The human form – my major source of inspiration – dominates my paintings. To emphasize the isolation of the model, I use space. The most important aspect of my work is the rhythmic arrangement of the figure.
Recently I have been interested in plants which have aspects resembling human features – eyes, nose, ears etc. Although aware of the differences, I have found strange similarities in the colour and texture of their skin; the cactus is one example.
A further challenge for me as a painter has been to capture both male and female characteristics in one person. I have painted the types of moorat who display themselves every day on the streets of the city – with their womanly attitudes, their daily shaving, their spending more on make-up than on food. They have to look as ‘beautiful’ as possible: their face is their fortune, their chief marketing tool. They dress in ill-fitting but colourful outfits in a grotesque parody of femininity. They roam the busy market places in groups, hustling for ten or a hundred rupees. Moorats earn their living by presenting themselves in various roles: sometimes as dancers available to perform at social functions, at other times as prostitutes, or sometimes as beggars.
These are not the sort of beggars normally encountered on the street: shouting expletives in a masculine voice, their palms meeting crossways in a trademark clap, they prey on susceptible passers-by, who part with their cash sooner than be treated to the sight of the group lifting up their dresses and flashing castrated genital areas in their faces.
One thing is certain: whatever they do, they get insulted, degraded and cursed by society.
They go through all this with determination and carelessness. Yet they are considered ‘alien’.
Eunuchs, or hijras as they are called, have become something to be feared. Nobody wants to be accosted by one of them, to be nudged by their elbows, stroked on the cheek, taunted, cursed and flashed at. Far from their home and real parents, these aliens have accepted this bitter reality of life as their fate. I have tried to grasp the true moorat on canvas. This series of works is an attempt to discover, behind the cheap rouge, kajal, powder and lipstick, their real face and true feelings. In my paintings, those unspoken words that are not to be uttered are very keenly felt. Ali Azmat