Born in 1978 in Karachi, Asim Butt abandoned his PhD in history at University of California and returned to Pakistan to pursue a career in arts. Asim’s work, which included murals, graffiti, drawings, paintings, was always public and political. When Musharraf imposed emergency in November 2007, Butt painted an ejection sign across the walls of Karachi to protest for the ejection of dictatorship. Similarly, after Benzair’s assassination, Asim painted “stop” on the buses and cars which were burnt down by the protestors to plead for an end to such a violent madness. He also painted two murals on the walls of the shrine of Abdullah Shah Ghazi; first one was based on the Iraq war, the second one was on the glue-sniffing urchins he met while painting his first mural. But the murals were deemed too vulgar for a Pakistani eye and were washed by the municipal committee. Similarly, Asim once removed the words P and O from “Police” written on a container, reducing one of the most feared state institutions into a mere insect. These are some of the examples of Asim’s “controversial”, non-conformist art work. He committed suicide in 2010.

Asim Butt used his arts to push the boundaries of expressions, to reveal the violence involved in the rigid, orthodox structures of our time. His critical, political works are marked by a yearning for compassion, beauty, empathy; values we can no longer see and appreciate because of our socialization in multiple kinds of political, religious and social authoritarianisms.

“After the century-long assault on beauty, an ideal obliterated by historical cataclysms such as the two World Wars and art movements reacting to them, I feel that it is perhaps time to re-imagine an Arcadia.”–Asim Butt