In order to fully understand an artist’s practice, the viewer must allow themselves to interact, engage and interpret the colour, line & form in e
In order to fully understand an artist’s practice, the viewer must allow themselves to interact, engage and interpret the colour, line & form in each artwork. The methodology of the artists focuses on personal experiences, shared history and exploring their unique environment to draw multiple narratives or perhaps capturing a singular moment in the work. “Eternal Ephemeral” is a group show curated by Irfan Gul Dahri that opened on 24 August 2021 at Full Circle Gallery. The participating artists include Ali Gillani, Eeman Masood, Feroza Hakeem, Firdous Mangi, Hooria Khan, Shahid Hassan Boni, Umnah Laraib & Zafar Ali. The majority of the artists have created works on traditional miniature painting paper called Wasli. The word Wasli has its origins in the Persian language and means “lovers”. It is entirely handmade using various techniques of layering cotton rag paper on top of each other bound together by an organic adhesive of flour & water or bookbinders glue. The end result is then stretched onto a thick board that is then buffed until completely smooth & firm. There are plenty of variations to the original technique in creating Wasli paper that depend on the region, interest and requirements of the artists. It is the foundation of miniature painting spanning over 10 centuries. The exhibition has a whole spectrum of colour compositions from black & gold, deep blues, intense reds and paler hues that feel translucent. The technique of miniature has been handed down from masters to their students but in modern academia, it has become an experimental and autonomous medium. Taking influence from photography, cinema and popular culture.
The intense and rich colour pigments used by the artists in “Eternal Ephemeral” are modern and emotional without compromising the fragility, control & poise of the ancient art form. The painterly expression of Masood holds together velvety blue tones in “The mind’s ocean” with wisps of dawn in the background. The droplets of gold leaf shine through the painting like a constellation. In “Impassioned Silence II” we travel across a skyline of clouds with hidden coral reefs hanging in front of a view of outer space.
Hakeem has created a series of works that traverse the life of a single tree growing through what can be interpreted as seasons, decades or centuries finding a way to survive. The viewer starts to form a relationship with “Khan-E-Maan” as the first painting shows the tree alone behind a wall of hurried brush strokes only to see it grown wide and surrounded by monumental grey mountains. Suddenly the environment changes by the third painting where the free is now frail and resigned left alone in a barren desert touched by a red tinge. By “Khane-E-Maan VI” the tree has acquired a new life blooming with flowers in a royal garden.
The energetic imagery in Gillani’s artworks captures gilded Mughal knights, birds of prey, dangerous animalistic foes at war. The silhouette of the Mughal knight in “Let’s fight and conquer” uses the gold qalam to move the eye of the viewer around the painting connecting the various parts of the story. The painting “Hunger of power” divides the picture plane from the centre using gold and silver pen work on black on one side and the other side has pastel peach tones on a white background. A clear visual of day and night, good and evil the battle is ongoing between two opposite forces.
The gold leaf used in Mangi’s works has a soothing effect on the viewer. The imagery is created using handpicked subjects taken directly from her environment. “Gharho Gull I & II” has a collection of crushed flowers and leaves that Mangi infuses into their paintings. Her interaction with her environment is documented & recorded into her works as a way to deeply connect with her surrounding nature. Accessing her own emotional landscape through these organism collage ensembles where she enjoys leaving the creases and lines of the gold leaf applied on paper. Using crushed flowers as her medium, she creates her own species of botanical companions.
The folklore and carnival world of Khan’s paintings depicts a siege between the wild animals in conflict with men. There are packs of dogs in the “Zaat Dushman” painted over bright orange in the foreground with a group of large men with gargoyle facial features looming over them. The grotesque fungus used as a painterly medium surrounds Khan’s monkeys & elephants as a disturbance and negative energy that feels alive on the surface.
Using large strokes of paint, Laraib works have a prism-like quality showing a separation of white light into a spectrum of colours. The beams of light are deliberately coordinated creating a large swapping block of reds, oranges & yellow across the painting. Her ‘Red and Red Series’ has five works that move the light in various ways creating a range of emotional landscapes that use a line of trees with dried up twiggy branches as a contrast to the tightly grouped colour stripes.
The desolate foliage of Boni shows a series of trees in conversation with each other. The painting “Fearful Excitement” shows two trees painted in two different landscapes set side by side on paper. “Your world is a reflection of mine” has another pair of trees, this time one above and the other below. Playing with composition, Boni uses ideas of reflection & scale to manipulate perspective creating optically active works that challenge the viewer’s understanding.
The brightly coloured backgrounds of “Sibgha-tul-Allah” a triptych by Ali using yellow, red & green as a backdrop curtain to the joyful dervish groups celebrating in the foreground. These groups of men are dressed traditionally captured in motion interacting with each other, they are swaying & playing instruments in absolute rapture.
The complex symbolism & visual analogies used by all the artists in their works encapsulate their various emotions, psychological & physical experiences. There are landscapes that are defined by traumatic, romance and personal perspectives on the environment that governs their reality. The group show brings together artists that are reclaiming miniature as a modern & personal medium unlike the forefathers of the technique that were only interested in historical documentation. The artists are autonomous & free to take inspiration from their present culture and life experiences.