Artists’ work: Of unfinished business and unsolicited sidekick
Ayesha Durrani and Sara Khan are two familiar names from the world of contemporary Pakistani art. Both are graduates of the prestigious National College of Arts and are known to have their distinct styles. It was natural that their solo exhibitions held together at the Canvas Gallery, Karachi, generated quite a bit of interest among art lovers. The visit to the gallery proved worthwhile because both artists’ work was aesthetically as well as contextually rich.
Another interesting aspect of the display was the individual titles given to the works of the two artists. Durrani’s pieces were ‘Unfinished business’ while Khan’s exhibits were called ‘The unsolicited sidekick’. The titles were not assigned for the heck of it or to sound catchy. They were the thread with which the artworks were connected.
Durrani’s work could be divided into two sections. The first dealt with life in general where she does not like to either sit on the fence or side with pessimism. This means, no matter what life throws at her (or her subjects), the hope component never loses its significance. In that regard, ‘There’s still life out there’ (marbling, gouache, and stickers on wasli) is self-axiomatic. The use of the word ‘still’ is important here. If on the one hand, it means that the show must go on, and on the other, it also signifies that something has gone wrong. The second section was a bit more specific. This could be gauged from the exhibit ‘Incomplete woman’ (gouache on wasli).
Khan oscillates between the issue of the real and the imaginary, between dreams and life seen with open eyes. Her work is marked by her understanding (or the concerted effort to understand) the human existence. She draws characters not in a conventional manner, but in a way that their faces do not appear to by in synch with their bodies. That’s not the case though, hence the use of the word ‘appear’ by this reviewer.
Be it ‘Portrait’ (acrylic on paper) or ‘Picnic’ (charcoal ink and oil on pastel on paper), the artist portrays the travails of an individual, ‘Portrait’ just as effectively as those of a group ‘Picnic’. One could praise Khan for being unpredictability with her art.
The good thing about that aspect of her work is that she likes to surprise herself as well.
What the viewer sees in ‘Satisfied’ (ink and oil pastel on paper) fits into her theory of finding the link between the real and the imaginary. While the subject of ‘Satisfied’ is identifiable, the style with which it has been made has a surrealistic touch to it. It almost flashes before the eyes as a frozen scene from an art house film.
‘Coquette’ is another fine example of how everyday life sometimes, nay often, assumes extraordinary proportions. It does not imply flirtation in the conventional sense but has multiple connotations which looking at the exhibit for quite some time unfolds before the eyes. Special stuff!