It was Salvador Dali, who experimented with optical possibilities within his Surrealistic frames. That legacy became very popular towards the end of the first half of twentieth century as new groundbreaking findings in the field of psychology were giving strength to the individual and individuality contrary to the everlasting concept of universal reality and mass understanding.
In the field of painting, 'How to Paint' was replacing 'What to Paint' and the humanistic factor that sprouted out in the Renaissance, got ripe in the 18th century, and it forced the 20th-century art to be more individual, more personal and more emotional. At one end the art was getting distorted due to the forceful expression of expressionism and at the other end, it was getting twisted and twitched under the non-corporeal ambiance of surrealism.
Pakistan has been a crucible of diverse cultures. It absorbed different tastes of various art movements and painting styles. One can find traces of Realism, Impressionism, Cubism, Expressionism and Surrealism at the same time while the Eastern tradition of Miniature Painting and Calligraphic Art is also alive in the hearts and minds of its inhabitants.
Western influences on the Pakistani Art have been due to many factors, Colonialization of South Asia is a core reason of it. Moreover, the academic or institutional art in Pakistan was impossible without the industrious efforts of mentors like Anna Molka Ahmad and Shakir Ali. Since both academic masters of art were taught and trained in the west, they sowed and watered the fragile plant of academic art in Pakistan which, ultimately got riveted by the western art style and movements.
Zarah David is an artist who has this honour of being there at the Fine Arts Department of the Punjab University when Pakistani Art was in its infancy. Zarah has seen Pakistani Art getting young and mature with every passing year of her age up to the prime level.
Zarah is a witness to the development of Landscape Painting in Pakistan that grew with the maestro, Khalid Iqbal while at the same time; she has seen her mother Anna Molka amalgamating her expressionistic technique with indigenous subject matter. She was there when Collin David was exploring the figurative excellence after his academic training, and she was there when Pakistani Art was getting its earliest shape.
Zarah, in an interview has expressed that experience in these words, "Colour has always played a very important part in my life and work. I was surrounded by such different personalities... my mother with her vibrant, strong colours and forceful technique of painting... my teachers like Khalid Iqbal, Colin David and Naseem Qazi, who had a more restrained palette... then I, myself, working for over 20 years as a colour consultant surrounded with colours."
Zarah David has been applying colours that seem to unfold the delicacy of a true female painter. Her palette corresponds to a sense of ultimate tranquility in her frames which, capture the onlooker with a fairytale like ambiance. Zarah's paintings convey the feelings of a fore long journey of human soul and thoughts to the inexplicable shores where existence and extinction embrace each other.
"I paint from the imagination, and my strong belief is that whatever is in your heart is visible in your work, whether it is in the form of painting, poetry or music. They are all related to one another. You cannot divide them into compartments."
In her recent show at the Ocean Art Gallery, Zarah has displayed an array of vibrant canvases. We can see the synthesis of orange, red, green and blue, evaporating out and across the limits of the frames. These paintings remind us of the great tradition of Landscape painting that Khalid Iqbal founded at the Fine Arts department of the University of the Punjab. They also make us think of the impressionistic influences that Zubeda Javed explored through her deep colours. They also stir our memory to recall Colin David with his surrealistic ambiance around his masterly crafted figures.
However, among all these greats, Zarah is standing tall with her own evolved style that has shades of these maestros but with its own taste and character.