An Artist’s Legacy of Generosity
An Artist’s Legacy of Generosity

The news of Tariq Javed’s passing away was sudden and took many of us back to memories of him as a painter and ceramist, and above all as a magnanimous spirit who brought people together and helped the nascent careers of many Pakistani ceramists. I will always remember him as the restless adventurer of the art world, who gave up his career as a successful painter to take up the challenge of contemporary ceramics in a country where technical facilities were practically nonexistent, and a mainstream awareness of the field had yet to develop. My strongest memory of him, is his animated face—talking passionately about successful experiments in glazing and firing. Tariq Javed was driven by an insatiable need to explore, excel and share.

Once Tariq shared with me, that his affinity to clay went back to early years when he saw his mother decorate their house with unbaked ornamental bricks. Born in Faisalabad in 1952, he grew up watching this seasonal traditional practice of refurbishing the clay facade of houses to protect them from natural elements. For years he ignored the pull of clay and studied to be a painter at Karachi School of Art and graduated from there in 1977.The next few decades of his career saw him turn into an artist in demand and he began to exhibit extensively across the country. To support his young family, he did a good amount of commercial commissions and became a favorite with interior designers. He also had many private collectors looking for his signature imagery that combined abstract patterns with echoes of landscapes and human figures. Later the series on Rajasthani women and calligraphy were added. Tariq remained a confident colorist all his life and his vibrant palette migrated from his canvases to ceramics.

Ours paths crossed in the 1990s, this was a time when he had already begun to find his way back to clay by working with established ceramists like Kohari, Mian Saghir and others, whenever opportunity rose. His first studio was on the roof of his house, later he fixed the gas kiln set up by Kohari for the Central Institute of Arts and Crafts in the 1980s, and expanded it into a clay studio and learning facility. He left this to set up his own studio in Korangi from where he created big ceramic mural commissions and exquisite small tile paintings. Occasionally ceramic pots and sculptural work would also come out of his studio.

Ceramics is a demanding field and many new entrants, despite their talent and energy, find it difficult to sustain their practice; to them Tariq Javed was a mentor who generously shared his knowledge on firing and glazing. He also helped them build kilns and test-fire them. To those, without a studio, he supported with space at his large workshop. He was familiar with the struggle and wanted to ease the passage for others and unknowingly, all this time he was contributing to the consolidation of the ceramic scene in Karachi.

Tariq Javed was an important part of the ASNA International Clay Triennial team; he hosted the workshops conducted by international artists at his studio. ASNA was formed in the late 1990s with the mandate to build a bridge between artisanal practices and contemporary art. The International ASNA Clay Triennials, with their workshops and seminars, were vehicle to link local artists both to their rich creative lineage and an opportunity to explore global innovation. Tariq was among the first ceramists to embrace the vision of ASNA and remained its ardent partner.

Coaxing new hues from chemicals to embellish his ceramics, and tinkering with kilns, always engaged Tariq Javed more than crafting pots, so he finally began to focus on abstract ceramic paintings. The improvised kiln he built with a conveyer belt, that fired flat pieces as they moved, was his pride and joy; and he made this facility available to other ceramists. It was customary for him to present visitors, to his studio, with test small plates/ tiles from his glazing experiments and these today have become precious mementoes of the time spent with him.

Tariq Javed was no stranger to hardship, his journey from a simple life in Faisalabad to becoming a recognized artist in the metropolis, and later in the country, was one of grit and passion. It was also a journey on which his friendly demeanor and intense engagement continued to inspire people around him. I never saw the artist despondent or defeated while he was physically fit, however in recent years, a prolonged illness had made him frail and that kept him from being prolific. Slowly, he became a recluse and many friends were not even aware of his worsening condition. His untimely death took everyone by surprise and left us in shock and sadness. He leaves behind many mourners and an unforgettable legacy of generosity.

Image Credit: ‘The Wonderful Tariq Javed’, Learning Karachi, September 2010


Niilofur Farrukh is a Karachi based art interventionist whose seminal initiatives have expanded the space for art publication, curation and public art in Pakistan. Her primary interest lies in issues of decolonization and as a writer/curator her focus has been on the excavation of lost interdisciplinary connections within the cultural matrix. She has several books to her credit and has been a columnist with Dawn and Newsline. The cornerstone of her curatorial practice underlines a more inclusive social dialogue through art in public spaces, something she is fully committed to as the CEO of the Karachi Biennale.

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