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A veteran screen printer's under water oil painting of Lord Ganesh
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 Concerned over this year’s disappointing monsoon, during this year’s Ganesh Festival, Akbar J. Momin, the founder-director of PRINTINDIA, Mumbai based multi dimensional printing house, made an effort to express his prayer to Allah or the God through his artistic skills by drawing a rare and unique under-water oil painting which has attracted lot of media attention (Aj Tak, Indian Express, Asian Age, etc).
“I am really worried over this year’s poor rain fall. So, being the festive season (Ganesh Festival) I thought of God/nature related theme – God (Lord Ganesh, believed to be the destroyer of obstacles and difficulty), and water, (representing the Rain God). This way I just tried to express my feelings to Allah or God,” explains Mr. Akbar who is a member of SPAI. “Let God blesses all plants, creatures and living beings with enough rain and water”.
While claiming that it was a rare feat achieved in the field of art, anywhere in the world (as he has travelled all over the world and visited art galleries), he also admits that this art was his experimental and it may last only for 15 days. “But, I will keep on doing this experiment (under water oil painting) to achieve longer shelf life. I had to undertake trials for almost 15 days before I could succeed in doing a final art piece on 21st August 2009”, says the Akbar the great artist.
Sharing his experiences of the new experiment, he says: “It was oil based painting since water based colour gets diluted in the water. However, in this case I had a problem. While doing the painting the oil content in the Camlin paint was getting discharged and I had to use pieces of news paper to absorb the oil content from the water. I had to mix up some mechanical oil in order to get adhesion”.
Mr Akbar’s PRINT INDIA has its printing house at Saki Naka in Mumbai with three units, digital, Roto Gravure and screen printing, besides an exclusive screen printing unit for art printing and UV spot varnish and special effects at Safedpool little ahead of Saki Naka. The printing house is specialized in graphic 4-color designing, barcode printing {from number 1 to unlimited}, flex-Vinyl.
The printing house also caters to its customer with offset printing services by outsourcing the jobs so that his regular customer need go elsewhere thus providing them a total printing solution service. The hard core printing business is now being handled mostly by his son while Mr. Akbar is concentrating on art printing and UV related jobs.
He was not born with silver spoon. His professional life is a tale of ‘Rags to riches’. Down memory lane, he recalled that when he came to Bombay from Sidhdhpur in Mehsana district of Gujarat, he had no money to eat a complete meal. But, still he managed to join J J School of Art to study the foundation course in art. Due to continued financial problem, he could not study any further, though he wanted to become a successful artist.
“I had to ‘earn’ to live. I got involved in banners and posters making for film industry. Later I started screen printing in a small way. Today, I am proud to say that I have earned lot of money from screen printing, out which I set up a mini water park at Sidhdhpur in Gujarat,” says the artist turned screen printer turned artist.
‘Akbar’ in Arabic means ‘the great’. So, Akbar Momin is not only a successful in printing (screen printing included), but also he is set to become ‘great’ in ‘art printing’, the energy derived from his art education and experience in screen-printing. His formula: Art + screen printing = success in art printing. In an exclusive interview with SPAI editor, Mr. Akbar shares his colour life – past and present and future plans in art printing.
What is the secret behind your success, do you have a mentor?
No, I have no mentor or Godfather. I am a self made man. I kept on making efforts after efforts. For me, success comes from ‘khoob mehanat’ (making lot of efforts). I am very happy with screen printing, and that is why I remained in this field for the last 28 years whereas many others who entered this field either abandoned or not making progress because they have not gone beyond printing visiting cards, letter heads.
I was born (in 1957) and brought up in Gujarat. My father, Jivabhai Momin was a farmer. Realizing that farming won’t bring in so much moolah, I came to Bombay with a strong belief that an individual should stand on his own feet so that he can achieve himself whatever he wished. And my wish was to become a successful artist. I joined JJ School of Arts and rolled out in 1978.
Believing in the saying, “Darkest hour is just before the dawn”, I started my career with art and painting. I wanted to excel in it and showcase my talents in a big way. But in the absence of proper resources (money included), it was virtually impossible to transform my thoughts (ideas) into action (painting). Due to shortage of vitamin ‘M’, I could not materialise my dream.
But I did not give up …and never thought of running away from Amchi Mumbai and I continued my struggle for over 7 years. Later, I could earn some money by making publicity materials – hand painted banners and posters for film industry, until I ventured into screen printing business in a ‘small way’ in the late 80s.
I started my screen printing in a small 10’ x 10’ room with 2 people. I then commenced my operations in the 120 sq ft bedroom of my flat in Jogeshwari, in Mumbai. Later, I acquired another 200 sq ft in the ground floor of the same building. My big business in screen printing started with 5-6 tables. Sad to say that some screen printers of time did not make any progress in their business, some of them either stopped screen printing or some of them are making only little money.
Your views on Screen printing:
Screen printing is an art, go for it. In screen, the more you go deeper into it, the more you will find exciting opportunities and unravel its potentials. That is how I discovered the potential of printing art through screen. I have deployed 20” x 30” Camshell and a 30” UV curing machine - both from Grafica specifically for art printing and special effects.
After the initial set back in art but tremendous success in screen printing, why did you again decide to hold paint brush in your hand (Art)?
Although I was busy in printing business, art was so much suppressed inside my mind. Making multiple copies of original art by hand will be time consuming. There are millions of art lovers. Since Art is costly affair, they can only see it at galleries and exhibitions to satisfy themselves without buying it.
But if art is made cheaper by re printing it almost like original in bulk quantities through screen printing process, many people /small businessmen can buy it. Even every star hotels, apartments can afford to put it in every room if it is available say at Rs.200-500 per piece. This way art can make a big entry in the market and can be popularized.
I am currently experimenting, carrying out lot of trial and errors, R&D as a pre cursor to his a big business in art printing. I spend some lakhs on experiments and R&D in art printing through screen process; working 6-8 hours on trials. Once I complete my experiments successfully on canvas, I shall roll out my own art prints.