As I welcome our readers to our September Issue, my heart is heavy with the devastating loss of a brilliant artistic mind that the Pakistani art world has recently suffered. Saira Sheikh was an artist, art educator, and an art writer, contributing several thought provoking essays for ArtNow Pakistan. She was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 42 and had been battling with the disease as a single mother with incredible fervor and unexpected optimism. Her prolific practice both as a solo artist and as part of an artist duo with Omer Wasim is lined with national and international exhibits that challenge the perceptions of art in Pakistan and are pertinent to understanding the trajectory of contemporary Pakistani art. She kept producing work till the very end with the same passion and engagement, evidenced by her last show “Optics of Labor” at the Koel Gallery in Karachi in April 2017. Her unique intellect, radical forward-thinking, and undying verve will be sorely missed.
As August comes to a close we celebrate 70 years of existence of a nation forever embroiled in struggle, yet with the amazing ability to evolve and progress despite its many problems. In this spirit ArtNow’s September Issue focuses on South Asia at 70, with as essay on the historical journey of dance as an art form in Pakistan through the experiences of Roshan Ara Bokhari with images courtesy of the Citizens Archive of Pakistan. We also pay tribute to Lala Rukh and Saira Sheikh through an exploration of their life, work and contributions to the Pakistani art scene.
Sanat Gallery and Gandhara Art-Space also celebrated 70 years of art in Pakistan through their August exhibitions. Sanat Initiative hosted a string of four art events that focused on the evolution of Pakistani art practice into modern methods and mediums while retaining the sanctity of unique styles and traditions. This included two solo shows by Julius John Alam and Haider Ali Jan, an interactive installation by Muhammad Zeeshan held on 14th August, and a group show with prominent Pakistani artists that kicked the month off. Gandhara presented a group show curated by Aziz Sohail featuring emerging artists, with attempts to understand the present through its use of archiving.
Canvas Gallery inaugurated the ISL Artists in Residence program in Karachi in collaboration with International Steels Limited, which brought together six exciting sculpture artists of Pakistan, Aamir Habib, Yasser Vayani, Safdar Ali, Ehsan Memon, and Mahbub Jhokio. The program was mentored by such prominent names as Amin Gulgee, Asma Mundrawala and Munawar Ali Syed. The importance of such programs in Pakistan cannot be overstated enough, as art and cultural practice in the country can only flourish through proper patronage from prominent public and private bodies and an increase in the number of public art projects in our cities. The final sculptural installations are displayed at the ISL premises.
My heartiest congratulations go out to the Koel Gallery team on the inauguration of its new and improved gallery space, which opened its doors with an exhibition curated by Seher Naveed, “We ate the Birds” as part of her ongoing research project on the widespread urbanization and its effects on the ecosystem. The new space will have a permanent exhibit with some of the artists associated with the gallery along with a rotating exhibition space, where workshops and artists talks will also be held. It is always exciting to see such spaces being launched in the city to house a growing art community.
Aphra Shemza was named one of the finalists in the Its Art Call exhibition in collaboration with D Contemporary and Cult House, which was held on the 17th of August in Mayfair, London. Shemza’s abstract pieces make use of light and interactivity to express her radical approach towards art. The use of new technology present edgy and minimalistic visuals that are refreshing as well as thought provoking. The Its Art Call program was launched last year by D Contemporary in Mayfair’s prominent art district and provides artists selected through an open call with the opportunity to exhibit their works in solo and group shows.
I AM Karachi continues amaze with its engagement of the city’s creativity and talent, with project after another adding more vibrance to the Karachi landscape. Their latest ongoing project at the abandoned canteen at the National Museum not only seeks to beautify a public space but does it by involving the citizens and youth to hone their creative skills and give back to the city. The project includes workshops being held at various schools to gather volunteers from among the students, which so far includes The Garage School, SMB Fatima Jinnah Government Girls School, Khatoon-e-Pakistan Government Girls School and Arts Council, Karachi. The project also seeks to engage the artist community, with a team of artists including Sabir Ali, Safeer Sandeelo, Farrukh Shahab, Sehrish Willayat, Hina Tabasum and Nashra Saleem, and independent curator and artist Mehreen Hashmi as the implementing partner and curator of the exciting endeavor. The building is being restored as an artistic monument of sorts as a continuation of the Heidelberg project initiated in 1986 by artist Tyree Guyton on the city’s east side, just north of Detroit’s historically African American Black Bottom area. With the use of found objects to incorporate the local culture, it will be exciting to see how the project will take shape and what value it will add to the much needed public art scene in the metropolis.
It is great to see Pakistani art traditions such as Miniature Painting making its way to international waters not just in the galleries but as in academia, with Aisha Khalid and Hera Khan teaching Miniature Painting courses at the International Summer Academy of Fine Art in Salzberg. I am very proud to see Pakistani art and artists being represented in the international art community in this way.
Gasworks has recently announced their new artist in residence, Mahbub Jokhio. Mahbub Jhokio’s practice focuses on the nature of images and their ability to deceive despite the false impressions of objectivity, concerns which he will be further exploring as a foreign artist residing in London. Gasworks provides opportunities for early to mid-career artists to explore and experiment in a fully funded artist in residence program at Gasworks London. The program for Pakistani artists is supported by Rangoonwala Foundation and the Charles Wallace Pakistan Trust.
The inaugural Nigaah Art Awards 2017 were held at Mohatta Palace this month and presented an amazing beginning to a hopefully annual event. Kudos to Tauqeer Muhajir, the editor and publisher of Nigaah Art Magazine, for organizing a successful evening. It is initiatives like this that will truly help promote Pakistani art nationally and international and earn it the recognition it deserves. I would also like to send my warm congratulations to all the winners in the various categories and wish them luck in their future endeavors. Lastly, a hearty congratulations to Ms. Salima Hashmi and Mrs. Majorie Hussain on their well deserved, Lifetime achievement awards.
Fomma Trust recently inaugurated an exciting interactive session in collaboration with The Sleep Centre titled “Sleep, Inspiration, Creativity” discussing the linkages between sleep habits and patterns, and advent of creative discourse. The session was moderated by Dr. Aamr Arif Herekar and Dr. Mahreen Sulaiman and was followed by an exhibition by emerging artists including Rabia Ali, Fahad Saleem Faridi, Zayyana Kamran, Ayesha Naveed and Onaiz Taji. Such events help illustrate the significance of art beyond the gallery and seek to involve other fields and the general public in artistic discourse. We hope to organize more of these events that push the boundaries of art practice. You can subscribe to our newsletter to keep up-to-date with our upcoming events!
Bye for NOW!