Colin David’s mortal body left this world on 25 Feb., 2008, but his soul breathes in his art and people. Colin was one of those good adroit painters who fashion human anatomy with their skill and imagination. Just like Ustad Allah Baksh, Sadqain, Shakir Ali, Saeed Akhtar, Colin portrayed women figure as a special element in his painting. He was a superb draftsman with a technical perfection that is all too rare. According to an art critic Marjorie Husain, Colin used to paint non traditional style in the restricted ambiance of Ziaul Haq era which consolidated his position as most popular artists in time.
Colin was born in Karachi in 1937; he began his art education at the University of Punjab when the fine arts departments opened its door to male students in 1956. According to Niilofer Farrukh he once ran away from home because his father, a journalist, did not allow him to take up Art as a profession. Colin David was among the first group of three young men who were taught by Khalid Iqbal, and by Anna Molka Ahmed who was hugely pleased by the talented trio. She included them in many of the Department projects and in later years, spoke of their success with pride. After doing masters Colin got opportunity to study in UCL where he was guided by sir William Cold Stream, an artist who painted in “Euston Road” group style. There Colin got opportunity to paint from life and found his artistic meter. It was a time when Naz Ikramullah was taking a course of Lithography at the Slade, and Colin mentioned meeting her in letters home.
Returning to Pakistan in 1962 Colin rejoined the faculty of Fine arts department of Punjab University, and remained there until 1964, but differences with Anna Molka Ahmed caused him to leave the department and join the National College of Arts, where Shakir Ali was the Principal. Colin remained there, an integral part of the college for 25 years.
In those times of experimentation Colin developed a unique, distinctive style which showed his own inclination. His first solo exhibition, a collection of figure studies in oils painted with great luminosity was held in Karachi in 1970 at “The Gallery” where Colin hailed great appreciation. His work in the genre of the nude inspired new art collectors. The element of design in a form of “figure” always creates balance and harmony in his compositions. Sense of space was an important subject in his paintings. Colin explored the female figure as a symbol of beauty and presented “women as a women”
Colin successfully portrayed the sensitive studies of children at play. In one of his painting he portrayed a child while eating toffee while un wrapping it, chubby fingers persevering, and an expression of total single mindedness on the child’s face. It increased the UNICEF interest in his art. Many of his art pieces went to foreign art collectors.
It was ironical that in his life many times he was obliged to hold exhibition in his home and unnamed spots for selected audience since he was unable to show his work publicly. Once he said “In the earlier stages of my career when figure painting was artistically acceptable, my exhibitions were always highly successful. The public understood and appreciated my work. They still do of course, but it means my exhibitions become elitist.”
In last days of Coulin, despite of bad health he continued to work and exhibited his art work in Karachi and remained popular.
Time goes, you say? Ah, no! Alas, time stays, we go.
– Henry Austin Dobson