Welcome to the January 2018 issue of ArtNow, “Art and Theory”, and to the New Year! As we bid farewell to 2017, I would like to take this chance to reflect over the year and what it has meant for Pakistani art. The steady ascension of the art scene in Pakistan has seen a sudden jump with the inauguration of the Karachi Biennale this year, putting us on the way to stand next to the biggest art events of the region. The biennale also started some important conversations on art within the country and promises to bring Pakistani art into the global limelight in the future. The Nigaah Art Awards and the Jamil Naqsh Museum were also inaugurated this year, both setting their own precedents, and the local galleries also saw a number of important group and solo shows.
The past month has been abuzz with the excitement of graduations and degree shows, with a new crop of fresh artists entering the art landscape. There were some exceptional works displayed by the students of the Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture, The Karachi University visual arts department, Center of Excellence in Arts and Design, Jamshoro, and National College of Art MA programme. I would like to congratulate all the graduating classes and especially the distinction holders on their achievements, and wish them all the best for their future endeavors.
I am excited to announce that ArtNow is the proud official representative of the Prague Quadrennial 2019 and has announced an open call for artists who wish to participate to submit their proposals. The proposal must present a design for performance as an art form concerned with creation of performance environments that are far beyond merely decorative or beautiful, but allow new types of experience and interaction to occur. It will address contemporary performance design trends reflecting the current views, thoughts and artistic development within Pakistan and the region at large. We look forward to exciting and groundbreaking ideas from our artistic community that will make our participation truly memorable.
The new purpose built space for the Jamil Naqsh Museum was inaugurated, showcasing a wealth of the artist’s works on display which have never been seen in the country before. The inaugural ceremony was honored by Senator Chaudhry Aitzaz Ahsan as chief guest who spoke about his own views about the artist’s depictions of pigeons and the female form. The curator of the museum Sobia Naqsh, art critic Marjorie Hussain, and Trustee of the Museum Foundation Dr. Faridoon Setna, also said a few words to congratulate the Museum team. The works on display spanned the artist’s career from the 1960s till the start of the 2000s, including his pigeon series, calligraphy works, figures, portraits and nudes and miniatures. The space is beautifully designed by Cezanne Naqsh and if spread over two floors full of the artist’s paintings. Spaces like these that pay tribute to the artistic legends of Pakistan are rare in the country, but are integral in commemorating and archiving Pakistani art and keeping it alive in the hearts and minds of art lovers across the globe. Friends of Jamil Naqsh Museum must be commended for taking this initiative and putting in the effort to make this possible.
A number of important publications have launched recently. Sanat Initiative has undertaken another commendable project to promote young artists of Pakistan and add to the artistic discourse in the country by inaugurating a series of books which will focus on a different mid-career artist each year. The first of its kind, this year’s monograph featured the works of artist Sajjad Ahmed and was released alongside his solo show at the Sanat Gallery. The artist’s oeuvre focuses on diverse ideas based on the themes of Capitalism, Globalization and the digital age, which is delivered through an increasingly formalist language. Another important publication launch was an artistic book titled “You’re Killing the Mountain” by Saba Khan featuring eight artistic projects on the water and terrain of Murree, part of the Murree Museum Artist Residency. The projects address the growing ecological strain on the mountains of Murree due to water shortages and territorialization of the land, and were displayed at Resource Centre, Kashmir Point, Murree. As part of the self-organized, artist-run residency, practitioners are invited to engage with the local community through workshops with Gujjar, gypsy children and interactions with the public in town, which makes it an inspiring initiative to bring art beyond the gallery. The book is a way to archive the process and make it accessible to a larger audience, and to “break art’s hegemony as a commodity”. Another initiative is undertaken by Indus Valley School which has started a journal called Hybrid with the first volume titled “The Archive” with Asma Mundrawala, Durreshawar Alvi and Omer Wasim as members of the editorial team. The publication is “an Interdisciplinary Journal of Art, Design and Architecture. [It is] a thematic periodical aimed at fostering a culture of research and writing at the IVS and beyond.”
The German Pavilion at the Venice Biennale 2017 has gone on tour for the very first time, and his showing at the Alliance Francaise de Karachi this month. The exhibition FABRIK (Factory) raises the questions about the meaning and impact of images in today’s world. The works by the different artists explore social and political concerns and raises questions centered around participation, protest and reporting in the age of the internet. Exhibiting artists include Hito Steyerl, Tobias Zielony, Jasmina Metwaly and Philip Rizk, and Olaf Nicolai.
Vasl Artists’ Association has announced an open call for the 10th Taaza Tareen artist residency. The residency focuses on promoting emerging artists who have graduated within the last five years. This year the residency is focusing on the topic “Bijli Pani aur Gas”, which are resources that define global conflict as well as the daily struggles of life. Vasl in collaboration with Canvas Gallery has also introduced a Taaza Tareen Research Grant and Exhibition which will be awarded to one of the Taaza Tareen residents who will be selected by a jury. Interested candidates can download the application forms from the Vasl website.
Pakistan Cables Limited recently launched a coffee table book, ‘A Reel on Karachi – Art Installations in the City’ which marked the completion of the project, ‘Reel on Hai’, a public outreach initiative of the Karachi Biennale Trust (KBT). As part of this initiative KBT invided artists from all over Karachi to transform cable reels into works of art which were to be nstalled in public places all over the city. The book features the contributions of 57 artists whose works were installed at over 20 public places of Karachi as part of the Karachi Biennale. It was exciting to see this form of innovative public art on display as part of the KB17, as public art in the city is a rarity and a necessity to increase public engagement with art and to beautify the city.
Lastly I would like to mention a number of exciting solo exhibitions that took place this month. Susan Marin showed her exquisite miniature paintings at Koel Gallery which was accompanied by a workshop by the artist. The show was followed by Naiza Khan’s solo show which opened at the end of the month, featuring some of her latest works along with some old works that are being shown for the first time in Karachi. The artist continues to explore the city and its relationship to the ocean, and how the expanse of the sea serves to transform objects. Check out our profiles section for an insight into the artists practice and current works. A brilliant set of works also opened at the Canvas Gallery in a group show by artists, Madiha Hyder, Kiran Saleem, Mirchi Ali, and Syed Hussain, all of whom display impeccable skill in the execution of hyper realistic portraiture. Another important show was by Najmi Sura, who exhibited her works in a solo exhibition for the first time ever. Her beautiful portraits were on display at the Momart gallery, and the artist lives up to her reputation as Jamil Naqsh’s student and muse.
Bye for NOW!