Welcome readers to the August 2018 issue of ArtNow, with the brand new and inspired theme of “H2O”. The highlights of this issue include exciting profiles on Mussarat Mirza and Anila Quayyum Agha, along with a retrospective of the extraordinary Zahoor ul Aklaq and a focus on his Zahoor ul Aklaq Gallery for the Art Spaces section.
The art world paces itself as it gears towards upcoming fairs and festivals of the fall and winter seasons. However, Pakistani art is being represented with full force in the international arena, with two exciting group shows taking place this month. “Sweeping Back the Sea” opens on the 2nd of August at Aicon Gallery, New York, taking some of the most promising names of the up and coming batch of artists in the art world today into the international limelight, along with a handful of mid-career artists. The artists are brought together under Adeela Suleman as the curator, and mostly have practices that focus on tensions of living in urban metropolises of Pakistan, weaving in cultural, political and historical narratives.
“Cultivating Wastelands”, a Joint project of Art Divvy and Rossi & Rossi, second in a series of collaborative projects supported by Rangoonwala Foundation, recently concluded in London. This show featured some of the same artists, including Suleman Aqeel Khilji, Seher Naveed, and Omer Wasim & Saira Sheikh, along with Zahra Malkani & Shahana Rajani with Abeera Kamran, and Mamoona Riaz, as the show looks at the effects of increased urbanization in a rapidly expanding metropolis and the disregard for the changing environment and landscape of the surrounding areas due to the massive unplanned development and land reclamation to accommodate an ever-expanding population.
Some other exciting shows taking place in London include a series of works by Jamil Naqsh on display at Pontone Gallery, which will continue on until September. These works draw inspiration from the ancient Indus Valley Civilization of Mohenjo Darho in Sindh, Pakistan, and his usual style takes on an archaic aesthetic. The show features a diversity of imagery, ranging from overlapping cultural references from various sources, to his iconic figurative explorations, to a more abstracted and minimalized language. This body of work by the esteemed artist seems to be attempting to locate the globalized present through an excavation of origins.
Another exciting display in London is taking place at the V&A, featuring an extensive collection of the belongings of the old Master from Mexico, Frida Kahlo. The intriguing display includes personal artifacts such as her iconic clothing, prosthetics, medicines, accessories, jewelry, photographs and letters, which had been sealed away in the cupboards and storerooms of the Blue House for 50 years, discovered when they were opened in 2004. The exhibition is groundbreaking in its contextualization of Kahlo’s paintings through these artifacts, using her personal affects to understand her artistic motivations and her art works better. Through the Western and Mexican fusions in her famously eccentric wardrobe, her personal and aesthetic development as an artist can be traced. It is an exciting prospect to be able to view these artifacts that have been the focus of so many iconic works of art in real life and see their implications on the trajectory of such an illustrious artistic career.
Hamida Khatri, a young artist recently gaining international acclaim, is also showing her latest stop-motion animation video this month, as part of the show “Resolve” at the Intersect Arts Centre in Saint Louis, USA. The video, “Laal Ribbon”, features handmade puppets and focuses on the theme of child abuse, using the medium to depict the innocence of childhood so heartlessly taken away by such devastating incidents. The video was initially shown as part of the show “Microcosm 2”, curated by Adeel Uz Zafar at the Gandhara Art-Space, Karachi.
On a much larger scale, this month will also welcome another edition of Art Jakarta, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. Conceived in 2009, the event has emerged as one of the most prominent contemporary art fairs in Indonesia and the region. The fair is attended by artists, galleries, curators, collectors and art enthusiasts from all over the world and contributes to the growing art market while also encouraging the nurturing of young talent in the region. Being a hallmark year, this iteration of the fair will mark the beginning of a significant chapter in its trajectory, and it would be exciting to see what the organizers have in store for the audience.
I would like to extend my heartiest congratulations to Muhammad Zeeshan, who has been announced as the curator for KB19. The artist, teacher and curator started his career as a cinema board painter in Mirpurkhas, and is now an internationally acclaimed multidisciplinary artist, who also nurtures young artists at the Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture. He has also curated a number of shows and residencies at the Sanat Initiative. It would be exciting to see the realization of the vision that this powerhouse of an artist will bring to the biennale. Zeeshan considers this project as a responsibility, and hopes to reflect the diversity and multi-culturism of the city through it. He wishes to expand the event so that it can reach every corner and every individual residing in the city, and make it relevant and accessible beyond Karachi as well. His energy, passion, and witticism will surely bring a dynamism to the event, and I hope he will be able to build upon the success of KB17, mobilize the city and deliver an even better encapsulation of it. I look forward to seeing his immaculate vision come to fruition in 2019!
The second city with its own biennale under its belt is also gearing up for action, creating the LBF Research Unit, which aims to launch archival, experimental, and theoretical investigations that offer new insights into the art and visual culture of Pakistan. This is aimed as a platform for research and pedagogy, focused on the social dimensions of Modern and contemporary art of Pakistan and the larger region. The grants and awards that will be offered as part of the Research Unit will encourage primary research on artistic cultures and support writing, workshop training, and curatorial practices. The core team for the Unit includes Iftikhar Dadi (Cornell University), Sean Anderson (MoMA), Salima Hashmi, (Beaconhouse National University), Jane Debevoise (Asia Art Archive), Naazish Ata-Ullah (Former Principal, National College of Arts), and Hammad Nasar (Stuart Hall Foundation).
The Research Unit has already announced an Open Call for its first grant, the AAN-LBF Research Grant in partnership with the AAN Foundation. The AAN Foundation seeks to encourage research and documentation of art in Pakistan through this initiative, and provide opportunities to scholars, historians, and practitioners to develop new ideas, and identify the movements and shifts in the development of art and its related fields. The grant includes a panel of Jurors comprised of Prof. Salima Hashmi, Prof. Naazish Ata-Ullah and Naiza Khan, who is also the Mentor for this grant. This will be a great opportunity for all artists with research based practices, as well as writers, critics, historians and academics to bring their ideas and prospective projects to fruition. I look forward to seeing who will be awarded the grant this year and how they will use it to push their work forward.
I would like to take a moment to remember a young artist, Qutub Rind whose recent passing has been an unexpected and tragic loss to the art community. My thoughts go out to the family and friends of a man whose diligence and determination in this field was a great inspiration to all who knew him.
Bye for NOW!