RWelcome all to our September 2019 issue, “Lives in Art”, which brings its focus to artists and delves into their lives, inspirations, aspirations, and motivations through in depth profiles. Art does not come into being in a vacuum, and the minds that create it, their intricacies and eccentricities, their life experiences, traumas, inspirations and influences, all come together to define its directions and contours. We look at some of the most interesting practitioners working in the art world today, including Muhammad Zeeshan, who is curating the second iteration of the Karachi Biennale 2019 set to take place this October. I am also pleased to announce that Artnow is the office Art Media partner for Karachi Biennale 2019 which will begin this October.
I am extremely excited for our upcoming 5th edition of our print edition, the Art Newspaper, which brings into print form selected articles and essays from the online magazine spanning several issues. This upcoming edition is based on the theme of Ecology, which aligns with the upcoming KB19’s theme, and includes a profile of its curator Muhammad Zeeshan, and will also feature the Afforestation project initiated by Lahore Biennale Foundation. Other articles include a coverage of the inaugural Pakistan Pavillion at the Venice Biennale with an exhibit of new works by Naiza Khan curated by Zahra Khan, Manora Field Notes, and The Venice Biennale by Simone Wille and Saira Ansari, profiles and interviews of Naiza Khan and Zahra Khan, the newly inaugurated art space COMO Museum of Art in Lahore, along with an in depth discussion with its founder Seher Tareen in an accompanying interview by Nimra Khan, and recent large scale art events such as Art Dubai and the Bahawalpur Biennale.
The Afforestation Lahore Movement, a project of the Lahore Biennale Foundation in partnership with the local government (led by the Commissioner’s Office, Lahore) builds upon the LBF mandate to use the power of artists and community to respond to local conditions and affect social change. The green city of Lahore has become progressively less green in the past 20 years, losing more than 70% of its trees coverage and becoming a victim of environmental changes and challenges, such as the recent alarming levels of smog in the city. The foundation takes up the task of revitalising the city as a public art project to create green spaces, through an involvement of various practitioners from the local community such as artists, architects, designers, landscape artists and other field experts. Involvement on an individual capacity will allow for greater ownership and understanding of the extent of the issues at hand. City spaces will be reimagined through this citizen-led initiative, with the aim to plant 8.5 million trees and create experiential spaces that will keep in mind the role trees play in our everyday experiences, at the same time identifying the issue of climate change and ecology as a problem we all share and are affected by, regardless of economic and class differences. The most important aspect of the project is perhaps the understanding for the need for more indigenous varieties of tree which will require less maintenance while providing more dense coverage and benefits to the environment, rather than exotic species and superficial manicured gardens aimed at cursory beautification.
The Karachi Biennale Trust recently launched one of their most significant contributions to the Pakistani art world in the form of the Karachi Art Directory. KAD is part of the KBT initiative to survey and document the current art scene of Karachi, and making it available for the public through its website. The directory contains information about 186 visual artists and many other categories of practitioners, critics, art spaces, publications and more. This kind of a project was much needed and will be invaluable in aiding artists, curators, researchers and students in their pursuits and will also help gauge the outer extents of the vast art scape of Karachi. The project was initiated and co-chaired by Tazeen Hussain and Bushra Hussain, who went through a rigorous process of researching and verifying the information included in the directory. Being available online and in a digital form, Tazeen Hussain iterated at the opening event that this is not the end of the project but rather a beginning, and the directory will keep evolving and adding more information in the coming years so it can continue to be a useful resource. The launch was followed by a lively panel discussion with artists, critics and educators, who spoke about the ways in which the directory could be put to good use within their respective fields. the event also included a detailed presentation by Tazeen Hussain about the process of putting the directory together, as well as a live interactive demonstration of the website. I am proud to announce that ArtNow has been listed in the art publications section of the directory, and many of our writers and critics are features as well.
I would like to congratulate Haider Ali Naqvi, who has been chosen as the next artist in resident at Gasworks, London, supported by the Rangoonwala Foundation and the Charles Wallace Pakistan Trust. The artist will be undertaking the residency from September 30th till December 16th this year. Naqvi’s drawings in graphite are immaculately detailed views of the metropolis and its evolving landscape, combined with found photographs and archival materials. For this residency he hopes to investigate the connections that South Asian migrants form with the UK as well as their cities of origin, exploring underlying notions of homeland, tradition and cultural belonging. It would be exciting to see the work that emerges from this research.
It was an exciting month for the local art scene with a number of important shows taking place with relevant commentary on our current times. Quddus Mirza the editor of ArtNow and renowned painter and critic, curated a survey of 23 emerging contemporary miniature artists at the Museum Rietberg, in Zurich, Switzerland to correspond to the same number of traditional miniatures in the museum’s collection. Its sister exhibition was set to take place at Canvas Gallery, Karachi, bu in an interesting twist opened with blank walls to protest the Lahore Customs Department’s unfair withholding of the works sent by the museum with all necessary paperwork in order. The show, despite the lack of any actual works on display, became a political commentary on this sorry state of affairs, the ineptness of the state, unnecessary red tapes, and lack of interest of care for the creative arts, despite blame shifting comments urging its citizens and creative practitioners to present a “softer imager” of the country.
“Naya Pakistan” at Sanat Initiative, which celebrated the 5 year anniversary of the gallery, brought together 22 works from 22 artists responding to the idea of Naya Pakistan, a 22 year dream of our current Prime Minister Imran Khan, and speculating whether or not this dream will come to fruition in his governments 5 year run. The timing is apt, especially as the government recently finished its first year in power, and the country celebrated yet another Independence Day. The works on display were a mixture of hope and cynicism, some launching critique through wit and satire while others urging the viewers to have patience over a situation that is still unfolding. Another group show at AAN Gandhara Art-Space, “Microcosm 3”, is curated by artist Adeel Uz Zafar and is the 3rd of its kind, a survey of the current crop of young artists working in Pakistan today and the kind of concerns they have. This time the curator has chosen to focus solely on women artists which also brings to light very specific theme to the otherwise diverse commentary. The IVS Gallery also has an exciting show on display, supported by the Goethe Institut and Vasl Association, and curated by Aziz Sohail. The show brings works by 5 artists, 3 of whom are from outside of Pakistan, whose works respond to the possibilities and limitations presented by language, especially in the context of the queer experience. The resulting interdisciplinary works feature spoken language, text, video, sculpture, photography, installations and performance, and study the interaction of all to attempt to transcend the bond of binary terms that language confines us with.
In the end I would like to offer my deepest condolences to Zohra Hussain and Haider Hussain of Chawkandi Gallery on the passing of their son and brother Murtaza Hussain this month. I pray for ease in the journey ahead for the departed soul and for the family to find the patience to get through these trying times. Condolences also go out for Nadia Nieni Rafi, the culture and lifestyle editor for GEO TV who recently passed after a long battle with cancer and 19 days of hospitalization. Rafi has contributed to the promotion of the arts through a coverage of countless exhibitions for GEO TV and will be in our thoughts and prayers. Her enthusiasm for visual art will be sorely missed.
Bye for NOW!