Start opening the folds of this world, count the sides, measure the edges, make patterns within patterns…look through the line between earth and the sky, which the child draws in school – leave it free – and its overwhelming – that there have been attempts in this world to contain and capture that infinity… I understand geometry like that.
‘Built-In’ opened on the 26th of May at Alhamra Gallery. After her drawing show at Zahoor-ul Akhlaq Gallery, Aamna Hussain delved into an extended concern in art making. From drawing she moved to geometry. The intellectual, generic placement of geometry in art in Pakistan is rigid as I see it. It is orientalized and confined to Islamic patterns and architecture. This confinement may serve a superficial purpose of ‘shelving’ this magnificent method of art yet it takes away much from both Islamic geometric practice and geometry as a whole. Hence going into the root of the matter we must celebrate the sublimity of geometry itself. From precise, mystical, minuscule algebraic equations to a ‘representation’ varying across cultures and times, geometry is the science of all form; from line, perspective, volume, and balance to mega structures and whatnot. From Cezanne and his survey of form across light in mountains and still lifes to Diego Rivera in his open-color-compartmentalized still lives to Pablo Picasso in cubism to Piet Mondrian and Zahoor ul Akhlaq to the basic shapes – circle, triangle and square –that little children are made to color ‘within’ in schools (that too is geometry and art?).
“Built-In” succeeded in opening, deconstructing and constructing the preconceptions of geometry in visual art. There was an interdisciplinary combination of media and medium. Manish Jiani, Abbas Ali and Mina Arham explored the more linear, simplistic openness of forms in their works. A monochromatic, greyscale/black and white approach was constant in these visuals. Arham’s use of surface (glass) and line drawing built a new reflective surface of flat multiple spaces in her smaller new work. Looking at her geometric city-scapes? arial views? building blocks? one is delighted by the possibilities of connections. In a world where all views have become approachable thanks to Google Earth, her works share a more personal, unpolluted diction of ambiguity yet familiarity of form.
Abbas Ali’s work has been wisely chosen by Hussain for this show as the ‘exact’ divisions of blacks and whites on his surfaces and stretching out of the frame takes the mind to how spaces are formed and the conflict between negative and positive.
Jiani’s work reflects conceptually on the allocation of spaces; through her previous practice she was exploring the realm of space in an art gallery and how it is used. Formally speaking, the modest layout and division of her works, form within form, frame for frame builds a narrative even more promising than Jiani has intended to offer currently. One hopes to see it soon.
Minahil Hafeez this time again with her pixelated detail has expanded her scale and it works wonders in this recent work. Possessing attributes similar to the works mentioned above, this work is separate in its zeal for detail. Organic natural patterns move the eye to make it play its own ‘join the dot’ game…hence creating new forms in imagination.
Umer Nawaz, Sadia Farooq, Ghulam Hussain Guddu and Sarwat Rana explored form in the more tangible sense. They referred to geometry with three-dimensionality; yet the sculptures varied drastically in handling, conceptually and physically. Guddu, like Hafeez, dwells in tedious, elaborate yet effortless detail. The sensitive and intelligent overlapping of form builds a multi-perspective visual – From outside to inside to…to oval and circle, back and forth. The crafted weave is a comment itself on how vision-follows-form. Sadia Farooq continues her highly intricate, luminescent, endeavor through acrylic glass sheets and dot-like text; she shares it as a form of meditation, ‘zikr’ repetition, ‘I believe’, stretching to infinity. Her latest works, placed with a few previous ones, are more literate in execution. Her previous conceptual handling had an airiness in structure… nonetheless geometric excellence is the core of Farooq’s practice. Rana’s work is a surprise. Her poetic and written statement and references may be an initiation of her sculptures but the structures stand on their own. As Hussain told me, Rana mentions them as extended geometry. These pieces breath ‘possibility’ and question the dynamics of form. The tree may have been chiseled out of a huge egg-like oval… her structure with overlapping; intersecting congested pipes interrogates form on many fronts. Plus these intersections open up newer tangling in the mind: arteries, vessels, bridges – the truth of materials like ‘wood’ and ‘metal’ enhance the experience, making it more believable and near.
While Sajid Ali Talpur and Moatar Zafar shared a similar palate their works were opposites. Talpur builds geometric abstract images through pen work and Zafar explores geometry through a psychedelic, more patterned style. Nawaz’s work in continuation of Rana’s sculptures stood out in its singularity of concern and ‘lightness of being’. A cylinder cracked all over stands irrespective of the continuity of gaps within it. One question who decides what is supposed to stand and fall, make and break…it jolts all previous notions of the tangible space…
All the work supports Hussain’s curatorial note: “The idea of this exhibition is to explore geometry in visual arts, and how artists have approached geometry in their works, including basic shapes, such as circle, cube, and triangle to more complex constructions. The exhibition is a form of investigation and documentation of concepts relating to modernity and abstraction.”
The works build in – apart and anew all at once. That is – may I say – the magic called geometry …
‘Built-In’ runs from the 26 May to 5 June 2015 at Alhamra Gallery, Lahore.
Sehr Jalil Raja is a visual artist and writer based in Lahore (BFA, NCA 2006). She is currently pursuing an MA (Hons) in Visual Arts at NCA and teaching O-Level Art at the City School.