Small Is Beautiful

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He paints small objects in his small world. He paints anything from sand grains to canvas besides injection vials and bulbs from inside. Sameer Hussain Dar has featured in many TV programmes including on Discovery Channel. Shazia Yousuf reports.

In the days, Sameer, 24, is just another young man – donning trendy clothes, spiky haircut, working, gossiping with friends… With dusk, curtains in his small room fall, and away from human gaze, the artist in him speaks through colours and brushes.

A miniature artist Sameer Hussain Dar of Zadibal, Srinagar paints minute objects like sand and rice grains besides painting objects like bulbs, tube lights and injection vials from inside. Sameer also makes miniature portraits inside bulbs with POP (plaster of Paris).

“I can paint on smaller objects than rice or sand grains but that will not be visible to the naked human eye,” Sameer says.

No one has ever seen Sameer working while painting as he does it in isolation. Nor does he shows his tools, probably self-made brushes, to anyone.

Sameer starts every artwork with the portrait of Ayatollah Khomeini and then only paints whatever he thinks about. He signs his works as Sameer A6. “I follow my instinct. It’s my instinct where from I pick an idea and it is this instinct that tells me what rules I have to follow,” Sameer says.

Sameer got into miniature art at an age of eight, when his brother Abul Hussain brought him a gift from Delhi. He had started painting much earlier. “I saw artists writing names over rice grains in Delhi and I thought it will excite him if I brought him one. But to my surprise he wasn’t surprised at all,” Hussain says.

Sameer says that on a mere look at the rice grain he believed that he can also do it. By the age of nine, Sameer had already made one. He did not show it to anyone. “I thought, only I can see the portrait of Ayatollah Khomeini that I had painted on the rice grain,” says Sameer.

But one day when Sameer’s father Ghulam Ahmad Dar desired to know what his son did with the colours he bought for him, Sameer hesitantly took out a painting he had made when he was six.

“It again was the portrait of Ayatollah Khomeini. My father hugged me. He was in tears. Then I took out the rice grain and told my father that I have painted the same portrait in it. He could recognise,” Sameer recalls.

The father overwhelmed with joy, believed that the art was a gift from heavens for his son. Sameer got full support from his family especially his father, a policeman.

Sameer, a middle school student then, would spend hours painting electric bulbs, tube lights and injection vials from inside.

At 15 when Sameer had made hundreds of artworks, his father approached Doordarshan Kendra Srinagar who agreed to have him on air. “It was a one hour programme where I had to tell about my art and show some of my works. Many people came to know about me through that programme. They handed over a cheque for Rs.7000 to my father. Papa was so happy that he refused to take the cheque and asked them to have a party over his son’s success,” Sameer recalls.

Sameer gave up studies after matriculation. Now that he was left with more free time he had planned to dedicate it to painting. But times changed with the death of his father in 2005. Now the family of five was dependent on the meagre income of Sameer’s brothers.

Sameer lost both encouragements as well as financial backup. To supplement his family income, Sameer joined a Kashmir based export house – Shah Rug Internationals where he received little money against his selected crewel designs.

After his father’s death, Sameer approached many concerned authorities like the Institute of Music and Fine Arts, and cultural academy but it didn’t bear any fruit.

The year his father died, Sameer approached Omar Abdullah, then a Member of Parliament, who through Cultural Academy helped organise a 3-day exhibition of Sameer’s artwork at Kashmir University.

“The exhibition gave me some recognition. And there are influential people like KaleemUllah Khan (religious scholar) and Dr Fayaz who through their contacts have helped me a lot,” Sameer says.

Sameer earns a few thousand rupees a month and most of it goes in buying colours, bulbs and tube lights. His mother, Saleema who spins yarn also helps him financially.

“Money is what matters. Earlier I would spend 15 hours in painting. With time I squeezed it to 10 hours,” Sameer says.

Inside the guest room of his home sit two wooden tables, one displaying the paintings on tube lights and bulbs and the other one miniature art over rice and sand grains. The walls are adorned with canvas paintings and portraits.

“It is the earning of my whole life. Though the lack of resources makes me suffer and does not allow me to carry on, I will not make this talent of mine suffer. I will give it my best,” he says.

Sameer believes that he will lose his talent if he commercialises this art especially the one he has introduced. “I feel I am not allowed to sell this. Allah has chosen me for this work, I feel I will make him angry if I sell any artefacts,” says Sameer.

However, to sustain he started selling his canvas paintings. So far he has sold dozens of paintings but he says it could not be of much help to his work. “Hardly anyone demands a painting from me. Who knows there lives an artist in this part of the old city,” he says.

As happens with other creative persons, Sameer sometimes is brimming with ideas and sometimes they don’t come for weeks.

“I feel frustrated when I don’t think anything for weeks together. My mother says my hair is greying because of it. But when it (a concept or idea) comes you feel as if you have been unburdened. The ideas come on their own,” he says.

“This four feet tube light I have painted for Hazratbal shrine. When I looked at the tube, the image of the shrine came before my eyes I conceived the idea and realised this is for Hazratbal,” he adds.

When it comes to his work, there are portraits of poets, politicians, singers, Hindu gods and goddesses, and of many known faces. There is a portrait of a child painted on one of the bulbs and someone is cutting his throat. Sameer says it depicts the sorry state of human rights in Kashmir.

On another bulb there is a very beautiful face on one side and picture of a demon on the other, he calls it Surat and Seerat. There is a bare tree protecting people. He calls it the depiction of Mother Teresa’s life, who protected people but didn’t marry.

“It is from the divine. It is your brush that leads you, you don’t need to guide it- may be at times people may find me stupid, but the things like making portrait of Ayatollah Khomeini at the beginning of every artwork, signing it with A-6 signature and doing it in isolation are the rules that I have promised to follow. This is what my instinct tells me,” he says.

The exploitation of women has been depicted in many ways, “for that I had to draw some nude pictures but I felt that this is not something I am supposed to do. I took my brush back,” he says.

His artefacts lie with chief minister Omer Abdullah, ex-vice chancellor Kashmir University professor Abdul Wahid, and Education minister Punjab. Sameer has also designed the cover of two books released by Kashmiri department of Kashmir university- Rang Nazran Hind and Kashris Manz Tahqeeq. Some of Sameer’s artefacts and paintings have been placed in a few national art galleries.

Apart from receiving coverage in local print and electronic media, Sameer’s art caught the attention of national and international media too. Two years back, Discovery Channel telecasted a programme on unique artists across the globe, Sameer was one among them.

Delhi based news channels like Aaj Tak also did a programme on him. However, for Sameer it does not make sense unless it helps him practically.

What can be of practical help Sameer says is the organisation of exhibitions at national and international level and helping in the preservation of his work. “I can die tomorrow. People will not have access to my work. And with time it is becoming hard for me to preserve. I want authorities to help me preserve it,” Sameer says.

Not knowing where his passion is leading him to, Sameer struggles in his small world to bring the smallest artefacts. “He is the god of small things,” reads feedback on his remark book.

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