Conjuring magic: J-K artist turns stones and sand into unique art forms

Srinagar: With every stone or rock he collects from trekking routes in the mountains of Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh, Manzooz Ahmad Bhat is meticulously carving out a space for himself in the world of mosaic art.

The 34-year-old from central Kashmir’s Ganderbal district uses mortar to grind stones and rocks collected from various mountains and extracts vibrant and natural colours to create his art, which seems to have aroused interest at an exhibition here.

Speaking to PTI, Bhat said paintings and unique art forms have always inspired him, and his creations are now admired by many. He is now considered to be the only artist in Kashmir to create such pieces.

“The art is made from stones. The stones are collected from trekking routes in Gangbal, Tarsar, Marsar, Gaddar, Vishnusar, and Sonamarg (in Ganderbal), and mostly from Ladakh,” Bhat said here on the sidelines of the exhibition organised by the department of handicrafts and handloom.

Acquiring the right stones is difficult, he said, adding it takes a lot of time to find them.

Explaining the process of his art, Bhat said the stones he uses are the ones that can be crushed but are not so soft. After collection, the stones are crushed, graphs drawn on plywood and then the crushed stones are converted to painting, he added.

A self-taught artist in this art form, Bhat said his family has been a pillar of support.

“My family has always been my supporters, they have helped me reach this platform. My seven-year-old daughter is learning this art from me. Many people approached me to learn this art. But it requires patience and so, many of them walked away,” he said.

Bhat said three to four months of commitment is required towards one piece of art.

Having won many admirers over the years, Bhat now wants to showcase his creations on the national and international stage.

“As an artist, I want to showcase my art at the international and national levels and want to reach out to people who have an eye for it. The Department of Handicrafts, Kashmir, has helped me to showcase my artwork in this exhibition, I am very thankful to them,” he said.

Bhat said he met with the Director of Handicrafts and Handloom Mehmood Ahmed Shah, who was inspired by his work.

“The director gave me a registration number and asked me to show my artwork. After seeing my work, he welcomed my initiative, work of art and encouraged me as well. This is a one-of-a-kind art form. I want my art to reach every art lover,” he said.

Shah said his department was trying to promote art that is not much recognised or known to people.

“This is our seventh exhibition here. As the diversity of art is very rich, we are trying to help artists in showcasing their craft.

“We are trying to connect them with buyers as well as on e-commerce platforms. We need to glorify our artisans and give them a platform for the dissemination of their artwork at international and national levels,” the official said.

Shah said his department is planning to connect Bhat with people so that he can promote his work.

“He is the first artist in Kashmir who is making such amazing pieces, and we want people to buy and appreciate his art,” he added.

Irfan, a visitor at the exhibition, said he found Bhat’s theme and idea impressive.

“He (Bhat) has been inspired by the mosaic art form, which is a rare art form and there are around 19 mosaic artists in the whole world. So, now we have one in Kashmir,” he said.

Another visitor at the exhibition, Nowsheeba, said she was very overwhelmed.

“This is the first time I have seen this kind of art. Stone and stand emulsion has been used together. It is very inspiring for new artists who want to come into this field,” she added.