For people that fancy the chic drama and sophistication of an 1889 cabaret, Scheherzade Junejo’s work should be on top of the watch list when it comes to art being produced in Pakistan. The smooth, precise paint application transports you to the magical world of theatre with glimpses of a burlesque bar. I had the privilege to glance into this world as I walked into MyArtWorld Gallery, Islamabad, on Thursday the 30th to witness a solo show titled ‘Inanimate’ by the renowned artist.
One would think that painting nude figures on a canvas is only to reminisce over the old Greek ideas of capturing beauty in its purest form. However, Junejo’s work is beyond just being aesthetically pleasing; it sets a mood, an atmosphere of its own. Her work has something for everyone; drama, the splendor of the human form and the exhibition of several different human sentiments or what the artist labels as the “bi polarity” of an individual. The artist claims that the work started as a study of human anatomy which later evolved into the exploration of human emotions. It captures the physicality as well as the spiritual aspect of an individual.
Junejo’s choice of using large canvases aids in creating this atmosphere. The smaller pieces though faultlessly created were put to shame by the larger pieces which exuded a very strong presence. The artist’s aim was to “desexualize” and “dehumanize” the human figure. The work cannot be labeled as erotic despite the full disclosure of the human form. That in itself seems like a big achievement by the artist; converting an object of desire to mere design. Regardless of the large size one is not overwhelmed by the nude figure on canvas. The viewer concentrates more on the form rather than the fact that the human body is totally exposed.
The bare white backdrop draws one in adding an element of mystery into the image adding to its sublime beauty. The subtle ambiguity and mesmerizing quality of paint application results in the creation of intriguing images.
The artist passionately described her work as an extension of her own life. Scheherzade discusses her own “bi polarity” or the contradictory surges of emotions she feels on a daily basis. Junejo’s work does not only cover personal aspects of her life but also reaches out to the viewer in a very intimate manner. The human anatomy is painted with such finesse that it is as if one can actually feel the skin.
In my opinion, the piece that stood out the most was “birds of a feather”. This painting seemed to be an amalgamation of the essence of all that was put up on display. It acted as an abridgement to the entire collection, encasing what looked like a fleeting moment of a possible stage performance.
The artist seems to be discussing numerous ideas, all through distortion or manipulation of the human form. Silent, beautiful theatricality encompasses the artwork, forcing one to stare at the paintings for a while. Scheherzade’s figures are more than just symbols of beauty; they have a character, a spirit.
‘Inanimate: A solo exhibition by Scheherzade Junejo’ was shown at MyArtWorld Gallery, Islamabad, from 29 April – 8 May 2015. Images courtesy MyArtWorld.