Mehtab Ali: a traditional artist with a touch of modernism

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Mehtab Ali: An artist who rejuvenated the traditional figurative artwork with a touch of modernism

Authors: Aliza Irshad Ali and Urba Masood

Figure 1 Karachi-based artist Mehtab Ali with portrait of Quaid-e-Azam displayed in Sindh Assembly painted by him.

Karachi: Figurative art is one of the oldest forms of human expression and it is the art of realistic representation. Figurative art has experienced a widespread revival in recent years and dominates major gallery exhibitions worldwide. And there is one artist, who puts oil, pen n ink to use, depicting frames of mind of eastern women attired in elegant apparel and jewelry.

Mehtab Ali is one of the finest figurative artists in Pakistan. He works with pen ˜n ink, charcoal, pastel, oil and water while specializing in landscape, still life, abstract, calligraphy, portraits, figurative and cultural paintings. The artist is a Science Graduate from the University of Karachi and has worked as a director of the Fine Department, œOur Future World Institute of Japanese Language. He has painted multiple masterpieces among which is the portrait of œQuaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah the founder of Pakistan. The portrait is 10 feet long in size that is displayed in the Sindh Assembly behind the speaker's seat.

Mehtab Ali grew up in the area of Liaquatabad, Karachi. He is a self-taught artist passionately painting since the age of eight years. He was inspired by the Alif Laila digest. The artist made a sketch and made efforts for the publication of the sketch for the digest but they rejected his artwork for three years. However, he stood firm and made every possible effort to begin his journey in this field. Finally, the day came in when his three sketches were allowed for publication at Rs. 30 for each sketch.

Figure 2 Figurative work by Mehtab Ali: "Girls Nymphs Finding the Head of Orpheus," 2021.

Mehtab Ali learned the art of working on different mediums by following the footsteps of renowned artists. Mehtab Ali is also inspired by the Iqbal Mehdi, who is famous for his pen and ink portraits. Iqbal Mehdi once visited Mehtab Ali's studio and offered to teach him, so Mehtab Ali spent a year under his training.

Figure 3 Portraits of Brunei's Royal Family, Brunei painted by Mehtab Ali.

The 60 years old artist, who spent much of his life creating portrait and figurative art in his interview declared that œMy dream to express myself through creative art has come true. He continued ˜I would like to visit famous art galleries of the world and learn from the work of great masters,' Mehtab Ali further added: ˜I am determined to spend the remaining of my life studying the art.'

Sharing one of his biggest achievements, Mehtab Ali said he was specially selected to paint the portraits of the Brunei's Royal Family. Special displays of the Ali's paintings have been held at the Royal Family Palace, Brunei, Our Future World Foundation, USA, Islamic Centre, Washington DC, Alliance Francaise de Paris, Germany and Japan Foundation, Tokyo and Raja Indisches Restaurant Kassel. He was also awarded with the scholarship of 6 million in 2009. In 1994, Ali's first solo exhibition was held at the Alliances Francaise de Karachi.

Figure 4 "The Pink Mosque (Southern Iran)" by Mehtab Ali - 2022.

As a eulogy to art lovers who assist and support him in his artistic struggles and undertakings, he enjoys doing their portraits as a token of thanks. ˜Time and art are the only two commodities an artist can afford', he says modestly.

The writers are BBA-H student at Iqra University, Karachi, and can be reached out at and

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