‘Beyond Innocence’ at Taseer Art Gallery was greeted by an array of familiar faces on its opening night on the 29th of April, 2015. The two fresh-faced eager artists, Farhan Ali and Samina Islam, mingled with viewers who could be seen nodding generously, munching away on gulab jamans and potato crisps. I had the opportunity to have a dialogue with both the artists in the midst of acquaintances biding time, making small talk or squeezing everyone into selfies that would soon be uploaded to satiate the mind with the ascending number of ‘’likes’.
Farhan Ali is a Lahore-based artist who has graduated from the National College of Arts with a degree in miniature painting. Maintaining the medium, he has created three new paintings holding steadfast to the idea that has been storming in his mind since his college days. The notion that children are born as empty disks which are slowly filled up with time by means of all that surrounds and affects them, drives his thought process. That according to psychological studies the primary, secondary and tertiary education that children receive throughout their lives, thus form their personalities and shape their minds. Although he talks about its universality at first, his focus shifts from the general notion and really narrows down as a critical evaluation of the Pakistani society which, according to him, lauds Western culture and instills it in children over our own local one. Ali believes that culture is a phenomenon that is constantly evolving with time and has the capacity to lose its core values and traditions if the society allows it to. Therefore today’s contemporary schools promote an extremely westernized culture that blindfolds the children from cherishing what’s close to heart: an awfully rich and colorful Eastern culture.
Samina Islam is a Karachi-based artist who grew up in the Netherlands but has now shifted back and settled in Pakistan with her husband and three children. A charming soul, she narrated how her art has been influenced by her different cultural backgrounds as well as her parents. She believes that she is very fortunate to have experienced the East and the West on a first-hand basis and these experiences now influence her art, and that she doesn’t prefer a certain medium to create art or focus on a specific national and social issue but rather fancies experimenting her way through it all. She accredited that she chose to stitch on canvases after viewing a documentary where a foreign artist was stitch painting took her fancy. During our quick talk, Islam acknowledged this specific line of art works stemmed out from her ingrown fear and constant worrying for her three children. That child abuse was the social issue that she wanted to emphasize on this time around.
Both Ali and Islam’s work had a common underlying study of the society around them, a bristly dash of Easten and the Western cultural differences with children as their focal point. Ali’s work incorporated the faces of the characters from The Looney Toons intertwined with the pieces of desi cloth with Eastern patterns on it. On first glance, it seems like the characters have been shaved clean off their fur and knotted up to portray the antipathy that Ali might want the audience to absorb at how the Western culture has not only seeped in but taken over the minds of our children. Islam’s work gyrates around silhouettes of a young girl dressed in a white net frill laden frock. She underlines the subject of abuse by using formulaic symbology by juxtaposing white and red and stitching red roses to give the inference of deflowering.
Overall the show raises valid concerns for Pakistani society and has gave viewers something to think about. This exhibition will continue till the 6th of May, 2015, and those of you who haven’t visited the gallery should drop by for a quick peek!
‘Beyond Innocence: Samina Islam and Farhan Ali’ was on at Taseer Art Gallery, Lahore, from 29 April to 6 May 2015.
Faryal Ahsan is a contemporary Pakistani artist. She is a graduate from the National College of Arts with a bachelor’s degree in Miniature Painting.