Opening days for art galleries always mean a small meet and greet where familiar faces mill around and gleeful conversations fill the air mixed with the heavy smell of socially smoked cigarettes. Everyone prods at the exhibited artwork then moves onto weighing out the artists themselves. Similar was the case of “Kisa Goyee” that opened to the general public on 13th October, 2017 at Taseer Art Gallery. It showcased the artworks by Mohsin Shafi and Haider Ali Jaan. Both the artists have previously studied art; Shafi has graduated from the National College of Arts (NCA) while Jaan studied from the Beaconhouse National University and is currently doing his masters from NCA.
Taking a round of the gallery, it’s displayed contents and having lengthy conversations with both the talented artists really amused me. Even though Shafi and Jaan had completely different end products, both of them had an extremely similar research and thought process. Both of them work with images collected from their surroundings and travel diaries. Wherever they travel to, they keep their cameras on them, constantly building and adding onto their mental processes and photo libraries. Neither of them simply rely on just self taken photographs but images that are also available on the internet from known apps like Instagram, Facebook etc. Once they start their painting process both the artists mentioned adding layers and building each piece with thoughtful cognisance.
Jaan’s displayed artwork consisted of paintings that had been rendered two-dimensional. For each and every painting he goes through the process of stripping down the selected images of their real context and simplifying them to their most basic comprehension. He then moves onto filling selected parts of the photograph with coloured vertices, thus highlighting more than stripping away. The viewer easily gets lost in the simplicity yet the juxtaposing complexity of Jaan’s artwork. The most striking piece for me was titled “wake up” where I couldn’t figure out whether the person lying on the floor was dead or alive, whether the person standing above the body was pouring water on the body’s eyes or blood? This made me realise that by deconstructing an image Jaan adds a lot more depth in the reconstructed end result urging the audience to keep analysing and building stories.
Whereas Shafi works with adding preconceived layers upon layers of images onto his collage pieces. One look at his mesmerising work and the viewer is awed by the complexities present in each piece framed by shockingly ebullient coloured frames that encase the art. Each piece takes the audience on a complete trip and envelops them in the stories that Shaffi constructs without using words. His piece titled “It’s the little things in life” encased in a bright neon pink frame show the contrasting grey’s of underprivileged lives to the colour of life that only a few fortunate people get to see. It highlights the class differences of similar aged children; the select few who are passing through their lives on fashionable inflatable duckies whereas the third world’s majority young public is spending their youth selling plastic balloons that they ought to be playing with. Another piece by Shafi titled “And suddenly all the love songs were about you” seems to be a sarcastic take on how how all our lives we are sung songs about how beautiful and important marriage is. The artwork shows the married couple as a stiff grayscale image surrounded by shedding leaves and migrating birds caught in a topsy turvy battle in the air while the sun burns the world red.
It was a pleasurable experience to see art in Pakistan that made the audience stay rooted and stare like befuddled owls. I would recommend the readers to check out this specific exhibition online and follow Mohsin Shafi and Haider Ali Jaan on their personal artistic voyage through life.