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12/03/2008
THE EMPTY EASEL
In memory of COLIN DAVID, organised by the Artistsí Association of Punjab and the Punjab Council of the Arts, AlHamra Complex, Lahore.

I am honoured – as all of us present here are – by this opportunity to pay homage to our friend Colin David. who died on 26 February.
Each one of us can talk about a part of the man we knew as Colin David, but even collectively, we will never be able to aggregate the sum of his personality. Nor should one, for it really does not matter how many facets a diamond has. What matters are its brilliance and the light that shines from within it.
And Colin was such a diamond. Brilliant, and a source of light to those around him. To his friends, to his colleagues, to his family, and above all to the other children in his life – to his students.
No one who has ever been a teacher can forget that he is not simply teaching a class. He is in fact moulding the mind of a future generation. Colin was acutely aware of this. I had the privilege of watching Colin at work as teacher – first with me when I attended evening classes here at the Old AlHamra complex in the 1967, and then a generation later when he taught my son Komail during a summer session held at the Qaddafi stadium.
Colin’s style of teaching had not changed a bit. He was as deft and sensitive with his advice as he was when using his brush against a canvas. Gentle, caring, and always positive.
I will not dilate on Colin’s persona as an artist. The works he has left behind for us are – and will remain - a visible, precious reminder of his enormous talent.
I would prefer to talk for a few minutes about Colin as a person. I met him first at the National College of Arts. At that time, I was doing research in the Lahore Museum on its collection of miniature paintings. Some time earlier, I had seen the portrait he had done of Seema Iftikharuddin, commissioned by her brother Sohail Iftikhar. What entranced me was the playful way Colin had placed her figure against a backdrop of ballooning bubbles. Colin had taken the motif from the pop-art kurta Seema was wearing.
Colin repeated that mannerism in his equally mischievous portrait of Musarrat Hasan, in which she looked as if she had kicked a small ball away from her with her feet.
Had Colin not subsequently shown me some paintings he had done of the crucifixion, I might never had known Colin’s religious persuasion. It hardly mattered. It was not that we were more liberal or secular then. It was just that the value system in Lahore art circles was concerned with talent, not creed.
Over the years, I watched Colin mature as only artists with his limitless potential have to. Nothing can stop their fecund creativity, nor should it. Had God intended us to be uniformly standard and regimented in our outlook, he would made all of us McBurgers.
There must have been times when Colin regretted moving towards painting figures God had made them, instead of the way designers clothe them. Had Colin been a lesser artist, he might have been deterred by the response these paintings generated. It was a tribute to Colin’s stubborn adamantine self-confidence and his remarkable personal bravery that he endured attacks and onslaughts, criticism and petty-mindedness without deflecting from his inner conviction that what he was painting was what God had created in purity, not what Man had debased with vulgarity.
I am not sure how far Colin could have gone through life simply on the force of his talent, without the tremendous support he received from both his families – first from Zahra and her children, and then subsequently from Rukhsana and hers.
I would like to pay a tribute to both of them separately and together. Each sustained Colin is what was an often lonely, invariably difficult, always challenging effort by him every day of his life to be inside rather than outside society.
Colin has gone, as have so many of our major artists of his generation. The easel is now empty.
There will undoubtedly be many who will aspire to paint like Colin did. There might be many who will become more famous than Colin was. There will be none who will be remembered with such genuine affection for his ready explosive laugh, his impish wit, and his determination – regardless of the odds - to be himself. To be in fact, Colin David, no more, no less.
 
12 March 2008
 
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