Capturing an image today has, quite literally, become as easy as clicking a button. Viewing, sharing and duplicating that photograph has become equally as stress-free resulting in a massive influx of images worldwide. However, sometimes, a unique individual will produce an image different from the rest. Their insight, knowledge and emotion will show through, making that particular photograph a work of art.
The month of July saw the opening of a show titled; ‘Half Truths’ at the Faraar gallery, T2f. Displaying digital imagery, this show questioned the ideas of good photographs and photography as art. Work by two artists were displayed namely, Ali Sultan and Naveen Naqvi
At first glance, the works seemed like they could not have been anymore different from each other. Sultan’s work was printed on standard paper and stuck to the wall while Naqvi’s were high quality prints neatly framed in white. Sultan’s work was mostly blacked out with small rectangular images placed within whereas its neighboring images were serene photographs of landscapes and accompanied with text.
So what brought these bodies of work together? After spending some time moving from one artist to another, one realizes that both these photographers were interested in one thing; their surroundings. A visual artist living in Lahore, Sultan depicts the daily life of the city through his art. By capturing these unnoticed activities on camera, the artist uncloaks them from their veils of invisibility and instead makes them the heroes of the work. However, the uniqueness of Sultan’s work doesn’t stop there; he goes on to use these images in a way that a whole new narrative emerges.
When a photograph is clicked, it only tells the viewer a certain amount of the story, only what it can hold in its simple four-walled border. It is but a fragment of the whole truth, a perspective. So when Sultan places one or more of these images together and surrounds them with a great black background, it begs the question, what is happening in the space that we can’t see? As is human nature, the viewer, then, begins to investigate and create assumptions of the scenario based on the information the artist has given, in this case, the tiny images. Thus his work succeeds in stimulating the minds of the audience and aids in the creation of new stories.
Art is seen to many as a commodity, something that is expensive and precious which must be handled with care. Therefore, a lot of the times, the quality of the work are expected to be brilliant, archival. But what happens when an artist comes along and completely shatters that concept? He opens the eyes of the audience. Sultan’s work for this show was one such example: faded Xerox prints were casually pasted to the wall with no sort of protection whatsoever. The work was simple, ephemeral and absolutely brilliant in depicting its subject matter. In the same way as the photographs of the artist were fleeting, ordinary moments, so also was the quality of the medium; easily available paper that’s quality deteriorated by the minute.
In a much similar way, Naqvi’s photographic interests lie in her surroundings. Living in Vancouver, Canada, she travelled through the forests of the city where she described receiving great comfort during a difficult time. Each of her pieces beautifully captures the intricacy of nature. The world is serene, calm and devoid of any humanistic blemish. These images coupled with writings by the artists give a vague impression of her thoughts at the time. However, because of the equivocality of the visual, multiple interpretations pop up into the viewers mind and the work then becomes relatable in a way.
When viewing photographs of landscapes, there is usually an assumption that the image will be bigger so that details can be enjoyed. So it came as a surprise when Naqvi displayed rather small sized ones. This, again, changed the meaning of a typical landscape for the viewer. The art became more intimate; one had to stand close to understand the piece. It also gave the essence of looking into another world but a much tinier version of it, almost like Horton, the elephant, finding the world on a clover.
Another similarity between the two artists is their use of light. This show successfully encapsulates the existence of light as the work contrasts it with darkness, making the brightness stand out and therefore the star of the show. The play on contrast automatically makes the whole show visually stand out and that much more striking to the viewer.
The simple exhibition was exciting to witness but perhaps the most interesting thing of the whole show was the small table standing in the right-side corner, or more specifically, what was on it. Something not seen in any other local art gallery, the exhibition was selling copies of self-published zines for each artist. These were small books, filled with works of the artist that followed their oeuvre exhibited but were different from the show. They were affordable and easily available to the viewer, again contradicting the preciousness of art by making it obtainable to the multitude.