Refugees from across the world are stranded at eastern European borders as a result of the conflicts in the Middle East and elsewhere. Not just war-stricken Syrians, but many other people from places such as Somalia and Bangladesh are fleeing their homelands in a hope for a better future. Whilst humanitarian efforts are being made to shelter these immigrants, there are many who look at this welcoming gesture as an alarming situation in regard to its impact on the local economy, ecology, social and political infrastructures. Whatever maybe the drawbacks of this refugee influx, it can make this world a better place to live in if once constricted and sealed borders are made porous and flexible. Not only would there be a surge of business activity, it will also most importantly create a great pyramidal wave of tolerance, acceptance, compassion, equality, learning and peace in a world sinking fast with rigid hate, bias, war and conflict at large. Many cultures, languages and ethnicities can be united in the name of Humanity. One such organization that has for decades never sealed its borders for anyone and has always invited everyone equally on a common platform to promote art and culture is the Shakir Ali Museum in Lahore which aptly so titled this exhibition ‘Influx’.
Shakir Ali Museum in Lahore inaugurated this exhibition on November 13th 2015. Later the same night, little did anyone know that the world will witness the biggest attack on Paris since World War II, and the word “influx” would be used again many times in the local and international media,, though in an entirely different context. Intrinsically, however, the meaning the same as the message the art exhibition in totality propagates to the world, making the exhibit “Influx,” an important development of Art in Pakistan.
“This breaking of the divide and the consummation of the east and the west, the late Prof. Shakir Ali felt is perhaps the most viable solution to world peace and best spread through art and culture.” said Ahmad Shahab Chaudhri, the former Executive Designer at the Shakir Ali Museum. “It’s an influx of Ideas and expressions that can change the world, fifty thought-provoking paintings by eighteen artists from Punjab University College of Arts & Design (PUCAD),” said Amna Ismail Pataudi, the museum’s director.
Namrah Fatima, Saif Ali Sadique, Noor ul Huda, Sana Sohail, Nada Khalid, Javaid Iqbal Mughal, Amad ud din Arif, Anaum Iftikhar, Kiran Mehwish, Saleena Shahid, Mehroz Khan, Rasham Ilyas, Amna Khan, Hina Abdul Rouf, Neha Zahid, Shahid Rafique, Fatima Saulat, and Aisha Sheikh are the fresh enterprising graduates from the Punjab University. The show is co-curated by a National College of Arts graduate Hira Sadique and PUCAD student Saif Ali Sadique.
The exhibition opens with four video projections and artworks mounted inside the museum and outside in the open as well. In the basement where the gallery is situated, Namrah Fatimah, an artist in the show, paints her pet/companion cat, named “Catty,” and through her relationship with the cat, speaks about friendship, love and nurturing of animals and people alike. Saif Ali Sadique’s paintings are displayed in the same space. He paints the intellectual evolution of man and ponders over the current state of bigotry in this world. A little further down the hall, is Sana Sohail’s paper collage where the stencils overlapping form an abstract image of various objects, portraying the uncertainty of life. Nada Khalid, paints objects around her and says she has painted light ironically in dark hues with no highlights and describes the world as created in darkness.
One vibrant painting catches the eye instantly: Javaid Iqbal Mughal’s showing a young boy in his innocence and purity relaxing and on the opposite wall another painting where clouds form like fumes of smoke which are the sighs of the young boy perplexed and worrying about his future. A series of portraits by Amad ud din Arif has an interesting display with LED lights shining from within the acrylic boxes, which seem as if either the people in those frames are being glorified after their death or the congested look within the frames seems as if they have been barred. Where Neha Zahid has sharp, blunt lines to her work, Shahid Rafique has a soft and smooth finish to his graphite powder on canvas. He draws wedding music band members and how they play vehemently to bring joy and happiness to people at the weddings when their own lives are sad and broken.
At the far end of the basement gallery are two intriguing paintings where the artist paints herself in a state of oblivion, lost in space and eyes unfocused. Kiran Mehwish paints the fugal state of the mind. Likewise, but somewhat more haunting in nature are Saleena Shahid’s painting of an infant lying alone on the floor wrapped up in a blanket. Mehroz Khan and Rasham Ilyas’s paintings have also this sensation of being lost and distant. Rasham Ilyas paints dislocation and disconnection metaphorically uses organic roots, uprooted and entangled. Fatima Saulat paints dolls: still, lifeless, creating a feeling of remoteness.
Two artists develop rather unique techniques. Noor ul Huda paints with lines which appear as woolen threads on canvas; she paints “moments” in her life, cherishing each one, and calling the most ordinary days in her life as the most important. The other one is Ayesha Shahid; she makes micro images of abstraction on silk with various techniques in textiles, combing miniature paintings and textiles.
Though there is a need to add more innovative techniques to express ideas, PUCAD students seem to be heading towards a bright future with the amount of enthusiasm and passion they have for painting.
Images courtesy Shakir Ali Museum, Lahore.
Sana Kazi is a visual artist and Assistant Professor at National College of Arts, Lahore.