Under co-curators Rabeya Jalil and Ben Rak, the Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture Print Department has taken part in Fantasy Asia, an international portfolio exchange project with College of Fine Arts, University of New South Wales, Australia. Fantasy Asia is a platform where students and teachers interact and work towards creating an aesthetic dialogue between two institutions. The exhibition held at the IVS Gallery showcased a wide array of printmaking techniques and a sound sense of contemporary concerns.
Maliha Saleem’s Ruby, a mixture of photo etch, top-roll and screenprint, pulls the viewer in with its use of color. The image of a red head observing her surroundings, there is a sense of disassociation that the viewer picks up on, the presence of an outsider looking in.
One notices an undercurrent of humor in the IVS portfolio; Noreen Barkat’s Aangan, featuring crows and bras, is a commentary on the invasion of personal space, the restrictions imposed by an erratic and ever-evolving culture. Maryam Arsalan’s Draw Me I’m Halal, a self-portrait, is an intimate look inside a quirky personality talking about the daily contradictions a young Muslim may face in adapting to fast-paced times.
Taha Ehtesham’s New Beginning is a mixture of miniature aesthetic combined with the printmaking process. The two mediums have been fused together with the use of photo etch, top-roll and sugar lift to produce a visual that shifts boundaries.
Shahana Asfaque’s Dadi, Ezbah Ali’s Glad You Came and Fatima Nadeem’s Caffeine Romance are visually interesting prints, each distinct and bearing a personal mark. The IVS students focused on individual subjects and technical concerns while maintaining a degree of professionalism towards their prints. One can only imagine the nerve-wracking and painstaking hours put in along with the number of prints cast aside before narrowing down to the final proofs.
Saba Iqbal’s Cheers is a light-hearted embodiment of the artist’s own fascination with the shapes and sizes of the alcohol bottles she collects. Strung across the sheet in a burst of colors, the bottles reflect various personalities and diversity in characters. Nurayah Sheikh Nabi’s Ten Thousand Dragon Seeds is a visual full of layers and depth, focusing on the essence and substance of a woman, a testament to the artist’s unique style.
What is most interesting about the portfolio exchange is the parallels that the works submitted from IVS and COFA seem to draw. The IVS prints seem to focus mainly on the self or immediate societal concerns, whereas the prints from COFA vary from focusing on international issues such as Micheal Kempson’s Changing Partners, the use of stuffed toys representing certain geopolitical dynamics, to the simplicity of art for arts sake. Jason Phu’s Chinky Cunny Munny breaks away from the conceptual and produces an ambiguous relief etched in baby pink.
Keenan Thornton’s 1 Msg from TREATYOSELFTRON reflects how society is dominated by social media abuse, where the need to filter thoughts and expression has disintegrated and given way to a new form of racial slurring and stereotyping. The COFA artists have also on some levels tried to relate with Pakistani society and how hardships transcend space and time. Olivia Wilson’s Remembered Landscapes is about commemoration, the effect of a tragedy and how it may alter one’s perception of certain junctures in locale. Her etching visually connects to the devastating floods of 2013. A similar tone can be seen in McKenzie Gledhill’s In Such Spaces, a simplified depiction of the four-arched entrances to the Quaid’s Mausoleum. Gledhill’s work speaks about the symbolic divisions in architecture and the different emotions one experiences when stepping into a sacred space.
The entire idea of the exchange was meant to excite, engage and inspire through the language of printmaking. It helped strengthen and further develop faculty student relations whilst providing most of the students a taste of their first-ever professional and international platform.
Aniqa Imran graduated from Indus Valley in 2012 with a Bachelor’s in Fine Art and is currently working for the Foundation for Museum of Modern Art in Karachi.