Text | Marjorie Husain
Visuals | Courtesy Chowkandi Art Gallery
Masood Kohari who divides his time between France and Pakistan is a master of the art of crystal collage. In his recent exhibition held at the Chawkandi Art Gallery, Karachi, he showed exquisite crystal collage works and oil on canvas paintings that absorbed the interest of visitors to the event. It was some years since he had exhibited in Karachi, and it was by way of being a celebratory occasion.
Kohari began his art career as a painter in the early 1960s. In those days he was painting with oil on canvas. He was a close friend of Jamil Naqsh, and the two young artists would seek out and paint the natural beauty of the world around them. The two artists joined a class opened by the American Embassy in Karachi at that time, in order to borrow an extensive collection of the art books from the library. Reading the books under the street lights of Frere Hall, they discussed at length the great artists of the past. In the 1960’s Kohari became interested in the properties of clay and in `66, went off to Gujrat to work with local craftsmen. The next we heard of Kohari in Karachi was the exhibition of his work held at the Arts Council in 1968, and it was extremely impressive. One remembers the beautiful ceramic pots he made and the public and art community were extremely impressed. Professor Shakir Ali who had viewed Kohari’s work before the Karachi exhibition had encouraged him to continue with his work and said… “I have known Kohari as a painter but it was a pleasant surprise to see him develop as a Ceramist. Many painters in Europe have experimented in ceramics and other allied mediums but in Pakistan Kohari is the first who has adopted this medium for the expression of his artistic talent.” (Professor Shakir Ali 1967).
Kohari continued to work in Gujrat before leaving for France to continue his experimental approach towards his work. At that time clay was the basic medium for his work into which he incorporated metal, glass, wires and copper into his claywork. Kohari spent years in France working in established art studios and workshops, and first exhibited his innovative glass artworks at the Galerie Simons Badiner in 1970, the first of many to follow. Returning to Karachi, Kohari created beautiful artworks for the Sculpture/Ceramics section at Pakistan’s National Council of Arts Exhibition held in 1976, and was awarded the top honours. Kohari continued to divide his time between two countries. In Pakistan, he was busy in Gujrat where he taught in a Ceramics Institute and worked with local craftsmen. He continues to experiment and to explore his medium, and showed his work in Pakistan at well-attended exhibitions. Speaking of his work Kohari related: “The 1980s was a continuation in experimental works.
The forms came to a point of simplification by eliminating certain materials – most significantly CLAY giving glass dominance… The glass medium has its peculiar multiple aspects, above all, transparency and translucency. Thus glass became the body forming the structure in the two & three-dimensional forms integrating it with metallic wires; nets forming crystals, air bubbles and various other tactile & visual sensations adding onto the glass properties. Due to transparency of the glass light plays a very different role. The light passes through all the formed images. “To work in this medium, a deep profound understanding of its nature is imperative to handle melting, flowing, giving it form and integrating it with non-glass materials forming structures with stability in accordance with firing & cooling processes.” (Masood Kohari) Though glass is now a recognized medium of artists such as Dale Chihuly, whose `Rotunda Chandelier’ is a permanent fixture in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, in Pakistan it is in its infancy, and Kohari is a pioneer in the field. Yet it is noticed during his exhibitions that the process fascinates groups of students and young artists, and he is called upon to discuss the work with them at length. Now preparing to return to France where he has commitments, Kohari promised to return later this year, where one hopes to see more of his exciting crystal collage work.