November Issue 2014

By | Published 9 years ago

People who didn’t know Imran Mir well would be hard-pressed to understand how a man of such few words could possibly inspire so much love, devotion, loyalty and constancy in so many people. That he was caring and solicitous and treasured friendships and associations doesn’t tell us half the story. That he was attentive and interested in the lives of ordinary and important people alike only scratches the surface of the enigma.

Born in 1950 in Karachi, Imran Mir was a sculptor, installation artist, graphic designer, avid gardener and collector of books and ‘found’ art objects. He completed his Bachelor’s degree from CIAC in 1971 and his Masters in Communication Design from the prestigious Ontario College of Art in Canada in 1976, where he won the Governor General’s Trophy of the Year, the first foreign student in the history of the college to win this award. He worked in New York with the design trailblazer Milton Glaser and then returned to Pakistan to set up the Dawn Creative Unit, where among other things, he revamped the age-worn Herald into a contemporary, attractive publication. Some years later, leaving a trail of artistic creation behind, Imran set up his own firm, Circuit, that soon became a leading innovator in the industry. Some of the industry’s most memorable logos were designed by him such as the MCB tree, Soneri Bank, Citizen’s Foundation, One Potato Two Potato, NAPA, Pursukoon Karachi and a myriad others.

And when his old friends from the Herald launched their own venture — Asia’s first journalists cooperative, Newsline — Imran Mir readily put all the aesthetic resources at his disposal to create for them a slick, new-age magazine that was comparable to any international publication. A few years later, when that layout began to appear passé, Imran took it upon himself to help aesthetically reinvent it again.

All through his years of studying design, Mir’s relationship with art never faltered. The two disciplines ran sometimes as parallel trajectories in his life and other times as hybrid constructions. His paintings were conflations of expansive spatial colour fields containing cosmic objects executed with the repetition and meticulousness often found in Islamic geometrical patterns, paradoxically coupled with the freedoms of American expressionism. Mir toyed with all the metaphysical and ontological concepts that he was concerned with and could not express in his commercial output. There was a playful charm in his work that alluded to the childlike exploration of truth. The controlled chaos of his immense canvases was indicative of the lens through which he viewed the universe, the world and his life. He seized the liminal spaces and painted them, lived them.

Imran Mir’s last vestiges of energy and passion were assigned to his book titled Imran Mir What you See is What you See, which he refused to refer to as a monograph or a biography, insisting that it was “a book about me written by my friends.” It is a befitting farewell to one so deeply loved and cherished.

This article was originally published in Newsline’s November 2014 issue under the headline, “Art and Soul.”

Nafisa Rizvi is a writer and independent curator. She was founder editor of ArtNow, the first online magazine on contemporary art.