Studio Seven art gallery’s first artist residency “Karigari” (dexterity in skill based manual work) explores fusion between skill, art, and design, where five artists present works based on their social experiences and artistic interests. The artworks in “Karigari” are fresh and educating, they integrate skills such as creating texture, fashioning clay, or juxtaposing material such as wood and bamboo to converse about social phenomenon and environmental crisis. Architecture, abstraction, and figuration inform visual and conceptual details that the artists employ in this purposeful exhibition.
Consider Ayaz Hussain’s “Mandolain”. Almost two feet tall, Hussain’s visual concept of the lute-like musical instrument resembles its traditional structure where its strings are joined with a circular base that produces sound. The artist aims to resonate with sound sculpture, relatively new concept where sculpture has the quality to produce sound when signaled. Hussain’s “Mandolain” is picture-perfect; upon viewing, the mandolin almost looks like a painting with a grey circular base, connected to the brown vertical shaft. This might be a little over-kill, a perfect looking mandolin reduces higher meaning that viewers could have associated with an object whose interpretation learns from visual objects, material culture, and sound sculptures. Hussain continues exploring this creative realm with other pieces such as “Sound Canal” and “Bans Santoor” within the show.
Murk Mangi works with ordinary and mundane objects, converting them to art that is open to interpretation. Mangi’s “Untitled” is painting of a chaarpai (a traditional bed made with wood, fiber, and jute) that explores the visual dichotomy between the pitch-black background and the visibly discernible chaarpai. The artist paints these objects on canvases, attributing them with themes such as anger, loneliness, and loss.
Similarly, Mishal Khan’s practice inspires from her daily experiences that she chooses to convert into painting and drawing. “Shell” is a monochromatic relief acrylic on plywood. Etched with tiny intricate drawings in silver over a dark and textured ply, Khan’s artwork deals with skill-based abstract art that is appears to be almost sculptural in quality.
Mushtaq Hunzai’s “Untitled” is a collected group of small ceramic sculptures that are crammed around each other with their backs facing the viewers. Stylized to represent no specific gender, these figures are at once a representation of land and social or environmental damage that humans have inflicted upon themselves. Hunzai works with ideas that revolve around environmental destruction and erosion of natural land.
Global warming informs Sulaman Arshad’s pieces “Untitled” and “Reminder”. “Untitled” is a paper leftover on archival paper that depicts a gaping hole in the middle of the spherical green form, calling the depleting ozone layer to attention. “Reminder” is another circular drawing made with archival paper that presents an architectural, semi-abstract aerial view of fences with green plants showing on a few spots.
Each of the artist works with themes that appear close to their vision, memory, and experience while affluently displaying their skill or “karigari” with their chosen material. Material culture adds another layer to this vison. Traditional craft from Pakistan that trickles down from Chinese, Greek, and Persian influences in pre-partition Indian subcontinent have formed the basis of many goods that we utilize daily. Consider crafted pottery, textiles, and utensils in different materials as pragmatic items that have been in use in the region since centuries. Further informing modern-day media and artistic scopes, material culture in the country has been vast; from photographic works and sound to consumption of custom-designed products. The curatorial statement has not mentioned the aspect of material culture as an informant for the show, however it can be fairly assumed that the residency also refreshingly highlights this aspect that is disseminated around us yet devoid of critical attention.
“Karigari” ran at Studio Seven art gallery, Karachi, in August 2019.