Welcome all to the April 2020 issue of ArtNow, “Art Residencies 2020”, a point of focus that has become unwittingly apt as we all self-isolate in the safety of our own homes, physically removed from society. In this issue we go in depth into acclaimed artist Adeela Suleman’s practice and recent works in light of her participation in Art Dubai 2020, as well as the recent Watercolor Biennale, Jamshoro and exciting local exhibitions that we were able to witness before the global pandemic took over.
As the global situation unfolded over the past month, drastically devolving into panic and chaos, many of the longstanding global festivals and events have been either cancelled or postponed in attempts to ensure public safety and bring the pandemic under control. As responsible members of society, galleries, artists, collectors, and art organizations have also cancelled events that would attract large crowds, many have decided to go digital or commence operations by appointment only to avoid public gatherings within confined, unventilated spaces.
Art Dubai 2020, a much anticipated international art fair in the region has also shifted to an exclusively virtual audience, with the 2020 catalogue uploaded online and many of the events taking place digitally throughout the week of the fair, through the Global Art Forum live-broadcast and an Online Performance Programme curated by Marina Fokidis. The fair also introduced a new series of “Planetary Feeds”, which will gather interviews, insights, personal impressions and other content by contributors from around the world. This iteration of the fair also includes a new series of works by Pakistani artist Adeela Suleman under the Bawwaba Section, where she explores the relationship between violence and pleasure and its affects on the human psyche by drawing a thread between historical narratives and contemporary incidences of violence and bloodshed. Her work is available to view online. Also part of this year’s exhibits was the work of Hamra Abbas as part of a group show, UPSURGE: WAVES, COLOUR AND ILLUSION”, with Lawrie Shabibi Gallery, which is now available online in a 3D virtual view of the gallery space.
Locally, the much anticipated “Lal Jadoo”, a night of performance art at Karachi House curated by Amin Gulgee and Sara Pagganwala was also shifted online, and all performances were live streamed to a virtual audience. It is heartening to see the art community making tough decisions and exploring new and innovative solutions to keep going while ensuring the safety of others in these trying times. In the wake of a complete lockdown in Sindh and self-quarantine and social distancing being practiced nationwide, many art exhibitions and events have been cancelled, while there have been open calls for online shows to call upon members of the art community to respond to the developing situation.
The current issue also covers the new show at Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, “Caravaggio-Bernini: Baroque in Rome”, which brings to the public over 70 masterpieces by Caravaggio, Bernini and their contemporaries, on loan from museums and private collections around the world. This display is the first to focus on the two artists together and explore their influence on contemporaries such as Guido Reni and Artemisia Gentileschi. The title of the exhibition makes it directly clear that painting (Caravaggio) and sculpture (Bernini) were on equal terms in Rome of the seventeenth century. Both Caravaggio and Bernini embody the dramatic realism of the early Roman Baroque in their personal mediums of painting and sculpture. The naturalist turn in 17th-century painting begins with Caravaggio and was emulated by everyone. Caravaggio achieves the excesses of emotion replicated with the high contrast lighting with his characteristic, heightened chiaroscuro. With the exquisite realism that caused his contemporaries to call him ‘the unique imitator of nature’, Caravaggio communicates raw suffering as an experience at once horrifying and beautiful. Under the patronage of Cardinal Scipione Borghese, Bernini developed a sculptural style that also sought to express heightened emotion through grand gestures. Like Caravaggio, Bernini grew a reputation for psychological realism that no other sculptor could contest with. The show provides a noble idea of how stories were articulated in the past, how affections were depicted during the Counter-Reformation – through precious works of art from all over the world. In addition to the intensified realism, there is the amplified drama.
The Vasl Artist Association released their publication of public art, “Art in Pursuit” this month. With the support of Open Society Foundations (OSF), Vasl has collaborated and commissioned individuals and organizations under the umbrella of “Loud Speaker” to create art projects for Public Spaces, as well as an art exhibition titled “Contemporary Anxieties” at IVS gallery. This publication is the culmination of this, and includes coverage and documentation these projects along with commissioned essays around the politics of art in public spaces. Natasha Jozi, through her public performance “Saat Daryaon Ke Paani Se Dhuli Meri Rooh, Phir Bhi Rahi Gadli” documented through a photo essay, and an accompanying essay, talks about the possibilities for performance art in the public realm. Nimra Khan, in her essay talks about the precarious relationship between art and the public, what makes are truly public and in what ways art is influenced as it moves into the public. Quddus Mirza examines the failure of public institutions in making art available to the public, which leads to private institutions stepping in to validate public art through their intellectual patronage. Fatima Ghulam discusses the publication in detail in her book review in the current issue.
The Khatoon e Pakistan Government Girls School unveiled a new public art project early this month on its premises by the internationally acclaimed artist Imran Qureshi. The artist has painted a terrace on the grounds of the school leading up from one of its entrances and looking out over the metropolis of Karachi with a piece titled “Out of Blue”, replacing his signature violent red splashes with blue to respond to the context of the school and the city of Karachi. For him, blue is hope, life and water, flowing out of the classroom windows and onto the terrace in beautiful shades, turning into foliage depicting growth. The school itself is one of two government schools adopted by the Zindagi Trust and revamped both in terms of building structure and academics, now offering quality education rivalling major private schools free of cost to underprivileged students. It was the outstanding art program, teaching college level curriculum to 7th grade students that inspired the artist to give something back to the community that he himself is a product of, something that other big name artists must take lead from.
Before Covid-19 spread and became a pandemic, several art exhibitions took place at the beginning of the month that are worth mentioning. An interesting travelling show titled 1×1 brought together an extensive group of 57 contemporary artists with works sized 1×1 inch to 3 galleries in the 3 major cities; Full Circle Gallery in Karachi curated by Sheherzade Junejo, O Art Space in Lahore curated by Irfan Gul, and Embassy of France in Islamabad curated by Zara Sajid. Another important show took place at Canvas Gallery with a solo presentation of acclaimed artist Tazeen Qayyum. Qayyum’s practice deals with the grotesque and the beautiful and the show explores her extensive practice spanning the past decade including newer series of works. The artist’s defining image of the cockroach repeated and arranged in beautiful abstract designs talks about the depleting value of human life in a world full of violence and opportunism.
As you are well aware of the recent situation of the virulent disease COVID-19, the Government has announced complete lock down in the country. In the light of the current global health emergency and circumstances in Pakistan, Art Now Pakistan is postponing the operations until the condition is under controlled. We are also working on our next print edition dedicated to Lahore Biennale 02. We will monitor the situation and resume publishing as soon as the situation improves.
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