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Many Ways, Multiple Choices: “Intimacy” at Koel Gallery

On first encounter, Intimacy provokes memories of space and intense feelings. Curated by Maha Malik at Koel Gallery in Karachi, the show presents an interesting dynamics of the works of five female artists spanning three generations.

Ayessha Quraishi is the youngest artist in the exhibition. One is immediately drawn to the intensity of colour and colour application in the abstract dialogue. The process of painting shows it is a labour of love. Each layer of colour feels like a page from a book and each composition of colour together forms a chapter of a strong narrative.

Lala Rukh is known for her unique work in the field of minimal art. Her Nightscape pulls one inside an escape of solitude where one can bare one’s soul and long for another. The deep, dark and almost haunting depiction of the ocean by night is absolutely peaceful and poetic.

Meher Afroz has pushed the art of image making to its core, developing the process note by note and verse by verse in a sophisticated manner. As Niilofer Farrukh says, Meher’s “canvases are defined by a dedicated exploration of texture-building techniques”, an “imperative to layer scratch, emboss acrylic pigment, until the surface coalesces with detail, to form (an independent) pictorial language.”

Naiza Khan’s work, which responds to the current state and time, creates a dialogue that reflects society and also holds a magnetic appeal for it. For the past five years Naiza has produced and sustained a body of work which both documents and responds to the changing topography of Manora Island. The work is in her much celebrated style of layered images, creating a stage, an ambiance and a performance.

Mussarat Mirza draws inspiration from Sukkur, the city where she is based, but her work can easily depict any city or space that is past its glory yet still standing in the dust with its stories, narratives and history. The artist also points out this ephemeral aspect of existence that is a subject of her work: “We live in a world of dust – not concrete flesh and bone, but dust.” The suggestion or structure of her landscape-like paintings appears like visions of spaces which were once part of becoming urban but are now just crumbling into rural ruins. Her colour palette and scheme of painting creates an amazing opacity, translucency and distance as and where required to replicate these spaces.

It is always a pleasure to see the art of a person whose work has matured over the years of a passionate pursuit of chosen subjects and can transform reality into a private myth. Although in these works all five artists present an abstract space, nearly all of them have worked with the figurative form at some point in their career, and here the near-absence of the figure makes the presence of a being felt even the more.

In this exhibition their ways are diverse, but their aims seem identical – there are many ways to enter a house or a heart but they all lead to one direction, destination and destiny.

F.M. is a visual artist and a graduate from the Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture in Karachi

“Intimacy” ran from 12-27 January 2013 at Koel Gallery, Karachi.

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