Artists’ work: Visual potpourri
During these post-spring sweltering months, art activity in the city, like everything else, tends to decelerate to a snail’s pace. While most galleries resort to showing random exhibits of residual artefacts from previous exhibitions, the Koel Gallery, Karachi, has put together carefully assorted artworks titled, ‘Summer scape 2012’, with a generous count of 50 pieces. The rich diversity of the genre of art that gives the exhibition its exclusivity has something for everybody; perhaps a deliberate curatorial direction.
Within such an array of artworks, the beholder’s probability of discovering a painting or sculpture that establishes a connection obviously becomes greater. The artists showcasing their works in this assemblage are Abdul Jabbar Gull, Afshar Malik, Ahsan Jamal, Ali Azmat, Alia Bilgrami, Amna Hashmi, Aqeel Solangi, Ayesha Vellani, Faisal Asghar, Farina Alam, Laila Rahman, Mussarat Mirza, Sheherezade Alam and Tehmina Ahmed. The multitude of media and techniques that the viewer experiences in this group exhibition ranges from oils, acrylics, gouache, ink, wood, brass and charcoal to photography, etching, aquatint and digital printing.
Looking through the eyes of Vellani in her photographic expression ‘Dissolving shadows’, a worker’s weather-beaten feet clad in improvised sandals, instantly draws the viewer into the touching saga of the primitive labourer who is destined to toil without relent. The pincers resting nose-down on the floor next to the feet suggest a moment of respite; a fleeting relief from the gruelling routine.
Farina Alam’s ink drawings and photo-etchings represent a variety of power-packed messages, particularly in the bomb and tree series. Photo-etchings titled, ‘Bomb rhythm’, ‘Bomb token’ and ‘Bomb lace’, were composed strictly with diverging rhythmic patterns emulating the designs often seen in Muslim architecture. The stylised characters of the bombers and their payloads leave the central idea more conspicuous: avoidable devastation! In the ‘Tree’ series, Alam resorts to the generous use of native arabesque patterns punctuated with Urdu, Arabic and English calligraphy. The impeccable curves of the gracefully rendered tendrils extending from tree trunks, superimposed with floating alphabets and some animal life, exude breathtaking inferences pertaining to nature and its creation.
To portray the effects of the mounting environment of vulnerable security, Jamal has chosen to demonstrate his strong drawing skills through jingoistic subjects. His wasli painting, ‘One man’s freedom fighter is another man’s terrorist’ in charcoal, smoke and watercolour is a remarkable representation of the model partisan handled with technical ingenuity, compassion and skill.
Ahmed’s spontaneous photography of trivial subjects, captured with a master’s eye, evokes unprecedented emotions and a weird albeit a wonderful nostalgia which is hard to ignore. These déjà vu photographs indeed prove that the true spirit of effective visual response dwells in the ordinary.
To redeem the viewers from the simmering summers, Bilgrami lent a frosty breeze with her liquid, light prints, ‘Unfold’, ‘Liquid pathways I & II’ and ‘Forming memories’. The delicately composed subjects cause the viewer to discern a variety of conjectures, wander into pleasant revelations and finally deduce a pristine verdict. The etching and aquatint work of Rehman, ‘The greater light to rule the day, the lesser light to rule the night’, depicting improvised offbeat calligraphy, reflects the artist’s adroit handling of the etching tool.
Similarly, Hashmi’s, ‘The spammy chronicle of the character obsessed hermit creator’, sensitively painted in gouache on wasli, is a striking composition with repetitive anime characters that give the viewers unconditional latitude to associate themselves with the composition and derive personal inferences.
The spatial expressions of Gul in wood and brass and Sheherezad Alam’s ceramics in white earthenware, are unique in their form and texture and add the much needed garnishing to this marathon collection. Over the years, Alam’s kiln-fired novelties, with their distinctive glazes, have always been a notch higher to contemporary practice in terms of innovation and technique; a trait that never stops to amaze her avid fans!