AAN Gandhara Art space opened a show titled If You Have A Garden In Your Library – 1 on the 11th of April, 2019. Curated by Malika Abbas and with Amna Naqvi serving as a curatorial advisor, this show was the first segment of a two part series which displays the work of four artists; Saba Khan, Wardha Shabbir, Mohsin Shafi and Mahreen Zuberi. According to the curatorial statement, the crux of this show lies with novelist Umberto Eco’s essay titled “Di Bibliotheca” (The Library) which focusses on the library space and how it eventually becomes a place of adventure as one is on a quest to look for a book of his/her choice.
However, the exhibiting artists were imagining this particular library space with a garden in it, with each artist making his/her own representation of the space in the form of paintings, photographs and mixed media. Mahreen Zuberi made miniature paintings which studied the movements and angles of a swing. Her visuals, which were presented in the form of a series captioned “Fallacy of the Simple Harmonious Motion” consisted of a solid colour stool and chain while a sense of movement and depth was created in the visuals just through mark making; especially in the one titled Fallacy of the Simple Harmonious Motion III where one could feel the sense of movement with the angle and under-drawing.
Mohsin Shafi on the other hand had created photo montages, collages and prints which were enclosed within frames. His visual titled Always forever now comprised of a black and white photograph of a couple whose faces had been hidden. While a floral wallpaper was shown in the background; the entire image was encased within a turquoise frame. Similarly, in his work titled I Might Have Been Queen, the artist has hidden the face of his subject which is visibly a woman, almost as if he is trying to hide the subject’s identity. Shafi is possibly reflecting upon memories of his loved ones in these artworks, memories which he does not wish to disclose to the viewers but yet he wishes to preserve them, by erasing certain features of the visuals.
Saba Khan had created prints which depicted photographic images pasted against pages of a book. The artwork titled House for a Book depicted photographs of the exterior and interior of home spaces, seemingly abandoned spaces which the artist is trying to observe and understand. The images could also be reflective of the artist’s memory of a home which she had lived or spent time in hence, compiling her memories into a form of a photographic journal.
Wardha Shabbir had created paintings which depicted studies of plants and garden spaces, looking more like illustrations. Using hues of yellows, oranges, greens and browns, the artist had made a visual titled What we make in the form of a diptych; this image showed a yellow passageway amongst a dense growth of trees, possibly symbolising a space where the artist has walked in and is recalling its passage again. Another thing that needs to be noticed about these visuals is the details given to the leaves; illustrative and made from a young person’s vision, almost as if the artist is trying to recall their textures and feel from an old memory.
Taking the entire body of work into consideration, the artists have probably made visuals based on past memories and thoughts since they focused on themes like photographs and garden spaces. The garden space possibly symbolises bliss, happiness and a place where a child plays and explores, just like the library space where the reader explores. This show not only had an interesting variety of visuals but it also happened to be one of the few exhibits in Karachi with a strong sense of concept in relation to its subject. This will hopefully motivate other creatives to develop a strong thought and visual process for the future.