Qudsia Azmat Nisar — Pakistan's foremost watercolour painter and an educator to thousands of artists

Published 12 May, 2021 10:46am

She passed away in April after being ill for several months.

Pakistan’s foremost water­colour painter, Qudsia Azmat Nisar, passed away in Islamabad on April 27, 2021.

She had been ill for several months at her Karachi residence when, in mid-March 2021, her brother Zia Siddiqui moved her to his residence in the capital city. Despite receiving medical care, her condition deteriorated. She was laid to rest on April 28, 2021.

In 2018, she received the President’s Pride of Performance Award for her contribution to both painting and art education. Earlier, she had received several international and national awards for excellence.

Over a span of about 45 years, Nisar made a pioneering and outstanding contribution to the country’s cultural treasures. She can be rightly credited with the virtual introduction of non-figurative modern abstract art in the country, by using the medium of watercolour and drawing. It is difficult to identify any other artist in Pakistan who used this sensitive, distinctive and difficult medium so innovatively, creatively and consistently as she did, starting over four decades ago.

Prior to her introduction and specialisation in this form, the watercolour technique was used to depict still life, landscapes, seascapes and figures. Nisar used, instead, a subjective, imaginative, multi-layered, abstract vision to create hundreds of original new images, vibrant with inventive forms, shapes and beautiful colours, subtle tones and nuances.

The artist was not only Pakistan’s foremost watercolour painter, introducing the medium to non-figurative modern abstract visuals, but a much lauded art educator who impacted thousands of younger artists

Her work was viewed and highly applauded at exhibitions and workshops in Pakistan, the US, Canada, Italy, Belgium, Egypt, China, Oman, Nepal and elsewhere.

Untitled painting by Qudsia Azmat Nisar
Untitled painting by Qudsia Azmat Nisar

The renowned writer and art critic, the (late) Syed Amjad Ali in his book, Painters of Pakistan, wrote: “Qudsia has done for the medium of watercolour what modern painters have done for oils.”

The highly-reputed art critic, Marjorie Hussain wrote: “The invigorating boldness of her work and the innovative viewpoint heralded a new way of looking at art, and she became a role model for successive generations.”

In addition to her excellence as an artist and painter, Nisar rendered invaluable services in the field of art education. Whether as chairperson, Department of Fine Arts, and other departments, at the Islamia University of Bahawalpur (2006-2010); as principal, Central Institute of Arts and Crafts located at the Arts Council of Pakistan, Karachi (1992-2000); as head of the Department of Fine Arts from 1977-1992 and as Lecturer, Department of Fine Arts, Punjab University, Lahore; or at several other institutions, including the Mehran University of Engineering and Technology, Jamshoro, which bestowed a Lifetime Achievement Award on her in 2016, she trained, guided and inspired hundreds of young girls and boys to hone their inherent talents and to become, in their own right, recognised names in diverse aspects of the visual arts.

Her outstanding work is cited in at least 14 books on art in Pakistan and abroad, written by distinguished authors who, apart from the two names already mentioned above, include respected figures such as Salima Hashmi, Quddus Mirza, Mian Ijazul Hasan, Mohammad Jami, Salwat Ali, Professor Waung Shuang Shung and others. Ten documentary films on art produced in Pakistan and the US also prominently feature her work, while newspapers, magazines and art catalogues have covered the exhibitions of her paintings with stellar praise.

Universities and art institutions in Pakistan and abroad bestowed awards and honours on her for the exceptional contributions she made to the advancement of art and art education in Pakistan.

With rare humility and integrity, Nisar persevered in her creativity and in the public service cause of art education with notable strength and character. She will be greatly missed and mourned by thousands of art lovers and her students.

Originally published in Dawn, EOS, May 9th, 2021