Labyrinth of reflections opens at Mohatta Palace
KARACHI: The much awaited and highly anticipated exhibition ‘Labyrinth of reflections: the art of Rashid Rana 1992 – 2012’ opened at the Mohatta Palace Museum on Sunday.
Expected to run for 12 months, ‘Labyrinth of reflections’ showcases Rana’s works from the past two decades, his growth as a painter in the early days to becoming one of the most celebrated multimedia artists knows for his ‘digital photo mosaics’.
In their detailed notes, curators of the exhibition Nasreen Askari, curator and director of the Mohatta Palace Museum, Naazish Ataullah, former principal of the National College of Arts in Lahore and Fellow of the Beaconhouse National University in Lahore and Hameed Haroon, CEO of the Dawn Media Group and managing trustee of the Mohatta Palace Museum, gave a rundown of the achievements of Rana.
Curating the exhibition proved to be an uphill task, both from the structural as well as the logistical point of view, and Rana proved to be a meticulous and unforgiving taskmaster, said Askari. Meanwhile, Attaullah said that the intention was to present Rana’s work, which is widely acclaimed and generated critical discourse aboard as well as in the country, to a wider Pakistani audience.
Speaking on the occasion, Rana said that he was overwhelmed by the kind of reception he was getting here.
“Back in 1995, when I returned from Boston, I decided that I was not going to be happy with an audience of twenty people. So I deliberately looked at the broader visual culture for inspiration,” he said, commenting on how he aimed for a larger audience and made art more accessible.
On the occasion, Hameed Haroon announced his resignation from the position of Managing Trustee of the Mohatta Palace, adding that he would serve as a board member and would focus on personal endeavours.
In his brief speech, chief guest retired justice Fakhurddin G. Ebrahim urged Pakistanis not to give up hope for a better Pakistan.
“If you do not have hope and do not dream for future, there will be no change,” he said while excitedly saying that “change is coming”.
He said that he had no magic for free and fair elections.
He said: “Your vote is an ‘amanat’. You must go and vote. But don’t just vote for parties, rather vote for good people in those parties,” Ebrahim said while adding that he had great faith in the future generation. He was given a standing ovation on the occasion.
The man and his exhibits
Designed on the lines of a labyrinth, the exhibit is spread on the ground and first floor of the palace and offers an interesting mix of pop culture references and socio-political commentary. Simply put, it will entice you and it will shock you.
A graduate of the National College of Arts, with a master’s degree from the Massachusetts College of Arts in Boston, Rana is currently heading the fine arts department at the Beaconhouse National University. A detailed note issued by the gallery for describing his work read: “His work poses questions about urban existence, identity, paradoxical truths and traces the changing facets and effects of globalization and also provides a gripping reminder that the images and stimulations that surround us in modern urban culture are deceptively different than what they may seem.”
Seasoned artist and director and curator of the VM Art Gallery Riffat Alvi said that Rana’s exhibit was very different from what Pakistanis were used to seeing. “It is more in touch with modern times and reflects what is happening around us on a greater scale. Its audio-visual appeal reaches out to people at a greater level,” she said.
Often reporting from conflict zones, Indian journalist Barkha Dutt was also present at the exhibition.
Given that the show offered an interesting insight into the psyche of violence and blood and gore that one sees on TV screens on a daily basis, she seemed to be in awe of the pieces. Saying that she has never seen anything like this before, she summed up the works as “absolutely brilliant!”
Explaining his work to retired justice Ebrahim and later holding his hand while escorting him downstairs, Rana showed his softer side that won appreciative glances from those present.
Talking to Dawn, Rana said that he felt overwhelmed by the response at the opening and looked forward to seeing more Pakistanis, particularly Karachiities at the exhibition in the next 12 months.
Must see pieces
‘Mirror Mirror — Identical View I and II’ is an installation that illustrates the deceptive nature of an image. The huge mirror laced installation gives different reflection and allows a subject to be viewed from various angles, giving each reflection a new meaning.
‘Anatomy Lessons’: The biblical story of Judith beheading Holofernes by Caravaggio becomes Rana’s inspiration for this interesting video installation. With 12 channel videos beaming about micro images of bloodshed and violence, the bigger picture shows a graphic account of general Holoferenes being killed by Judith.
‘The Ommatidia’: Photomosaics of pop culture icons, in this case Bollywood heroes, including Shahrukh Khan and Salman Khan as well Hrithik Roshan, the portraits are made up of thumbnails of everyday people.
‘What Lies Between Flesh and Blood — Red Carpets’: Two beautifully composed macro images of hand woven carpets leave one shocked on closer inspection. Taking into account Benazir Bhutto’s murder in 2007, the work showcases the brutality of animal slaughter and the cruelty exhibited towards the silent being in society.