PAF launches book to celebrate 60 years of service
KARACHI: A painter of exceptional capabilities was unveiled Monday night during a ceremony to launch a book titled “PAF Over the Years.” The 120-page book comprises photographs of paintings made by the Pakistan Air Force’s (PAF) official Military Aviation Artist, Group Captain Syed Masood Akhtar Hussaini.
He was commissioned in the PAF as a pilot in March 1971 after graduating from the PAF College, Sargodha. In 1973, he qualified as an Air Defence Weapons Controller, where he continued to serve until he retired in the year 2000.
The book depicts the PAF’s history through the medium of art. Each painting is a delight to behold, with an awe striking attention to detail, composition and colour schemes. Hussaini is a painter of rare capabilities – he captures the sense of space and time without compromising aesthetics and art. Each picture focuses on aircraft, of course – some on the ground, some taxiing down the runway, some in a dogfight thousands of feet up in the air. Others cruise silently over targets, while counterparts later bomb identified sights. Many more depict aerobatics performed by famous PAF stalwarts such as F.S. Hussain. Each picture speaks of a piece of history, captured by Hussaini’s brush and pen.
Monday night’s ceremony started off 45 minutes late with a recitation from the Qur’an, followed by a 10-minute documentary about the 60-year history of the PAF. The documentary gave an impressive account of the formation of the PAF, and the ensuing trials, tribulations and victories.
The keynote address was delivered by Air Marshall Tabrez Asif (of the PAF Air War College), on behalf of Air Marshall (Retd) Khalid Anwer. The air marshall spoke about how the Pakistan Air Force makes do with the most limited of resources (“We’re using Mirage aircraft built in the 1960s”) and how the brave pilots put their lives on the line for their country, and will continue to do so.
Chartered accountant, banker, art-lover and writer, Fakir Syed Aizazuddin, followed the keynote address with an ode to the PAF and the air force’s service to the nation. He also lauded the publication of “PAF over the years,” and paid tribute to Husseini’s artwork. Nilofer Farrukh, and ASNA founding member, Mehr Afroze, followed suite.
Afroze gushed over the compositions of Husseini’s artwork, as well as the technicalities, figurative aspects, the colour schemes, and the landscapes in each picture.
Dawn Group of Newspapers CEO, Hameed Haroon, brought up some valid points. “The books do not tell us what the medium is. It just says ‘Oil.’ Oil what? Oil on canvas? Oil on paper? This should have been made clearer. The dimensions should also have been mentioned,” Haroon said. “The dates when Hussaini made the paintings should have been mentioned as well, along with something about the corresponding period in the artist’s life.”
Also missing in the book is the “human face” of PAF. None of the paintings say anything about the lives of PAF personnel. The history of an organisation should also show the people that make up the organisation. The only human angle that is present in the paintings are the feelings of hope (at the procurement of a new fleet of aircraft), despair (at the death of a comrade in action), enchantment (at the beauty of a silent night over Agra), etc, that Hussaini lets seep through his strokes. The picture of each painting is accompanied by a single line telling the readers what the aircraft is doing, where, and when.
While the attention to detail in the paintings makes them look like photographs at times, Hussaini lets the creative artist in him shine through. One painting pointed out in particular by both, Nilofer Farrukh and Hameed Haroon, was that of an aircraft locating the Agra Airbase at night, one December in the 1970s. The picture shows the full moon over the Ganges, the Taj Mahal in a corner, and the aircraft silently cruising and marking out the airbase. “In December, the Ganges would have dried out to a trickle, much like the River Indus here,” Haroon said. Husseini, however, depicts the river in all its moonlit glory, not allowing mundane facts to rein in artistic freedom – and this is what sets his work up on a pedestal.
“Greater tribute should be paid to these paintings,” Haroon said. “They should be exhibited in a museum for the world to see – not just photographed and printed in a book. While the book is a laudable start, it does not do justice to Hussaini’s talent, and the beauty of his work.”