Welcome to the February 2018 issue of ArtNow, “Inside the Artist’s Mind”, where we take a closer look at the artist’s psyche, the source of their creativity and inspiration, their journey and process, and what motivates them. For this we have put together profiles and interviews of a number of artists including Summaya Durrani, Riffat Alvi, Sumera Tazeen, and Abdullah Syed, among others. I am also glad to announce the introduction of Artnow’s guest editor section which will host a new guest editor every month. For our February issue our first ever guest editor is the wonderful, Ali Naqvi.
I would like to start by expressing my deepest regrets at the passing of a national treasure, Shakeel Siddiqui, who departed from this world on the 11th of January 2018. It is a great loss to the artistic community, and to Pakistan at large. Siddiqui was one of the few remaining realist painters whose impeccable skill was a sight to behold. According to Quddus Mirza, “Like art itself, concepts and beliefs in art also keep changing. However, Shakeel’s choice to paint in the realistic manner can be regarded as a sign of courage and an act of out of the ordinary—amid the abstract and semi-abstract daubing around.”
I am excited to announce ArtNow’s continued presence at Art Dubai, due to take place in March. We will be hosting a panel discussion this year titled “Outside the Globe”, moderated by Quddus Mirza with participants Nada Raza, Fareda Khan, Waqas Ahmed, and Muhammad Zeeshan. The discussion will explore the possibility of art after the idea and practice of the ‘international’. With reference to 70 years of independence of the twin states of South Asia, focusing particularly on the concerns of contemporary artists’ with regard to territorial, cultural, religious, and ethnic identities, which have led to the conflicts/concepts of our times, manifesting in different forms of visual expressions. However, some of these are challenged, as well as fortified with the emergence of current means of communication in this age of globalization. Drawing from one’s own practices as a maker, curator and writer, the discussion focuses on the future scenario of art, culture and society vis-à-vis location. Art Dubai is a leading international art fair and one of the biggest art fairs in the MENA region, bringing together 105 galleries from 48 countries all over the world. It is a meeting point for the international art community and seeks to maintain a discourse on issues of the art world through its talks, panel discussions and year round educational programme. Now in its 12th iteration, Art Dubai is held in partnership with The Abraaj Group, and held at Madinat Jumeirah.
It has been an exciting start to the year, with the international art world abuzz with Art Fairs and exhibits. The London Art Fair, organized by the Business Design Centre, took place this month from the 17th till the 21st featuring galleries from five continents alongside local British galleries bringing together a display by 131 artists from all over the world. In its 30th iteration now, the fair has been known to propel the careers of upcoming artists in the past who have gone on to become big names in the art world, and hosted fresh contemporary talent next to the likes of Andy Warhol, Joan Miro and Pablo Picasso, as well as British artists Damien Hirst, David Bomberg, Banksy, Henry Moore and German-British painter Frank Auerbach this time around. The marked its 30th birthday with a special collaboration with Art UK titled ‘Art of the Nation: Five Artists Choose’, where contemporary artists Sonia Boyce, Mat Collishaw, Haroon Mirza, Oscar Murillo and Rose Wylie brought together their favourite art pieces from UK’s public collections. It was also exciting to see one of the exhibits from the Art Project’s 33 curated spaces dedicated solely to female artists under the title ‘Dialogue’. The project included collaborations by five pairs of galleries, each of whom presented work by female or female-identifying artists, addressing issues of gender and cultural identity meant to spark favorable conversations for women in society.
Pakistani artists are also making waves in international waters. Muhammad Ali Talpur is currently showing his work in a solo exhibition at Austin/Desmond Fine Art in London in collaboration with Canvas Gallery Karachi. A private viewing on the 25th was followed by a talk between the artist and Sona Datta (Writer and broadcaster and former Curator of South Asian Art at the Peabody Essex Museum). The show explores the artists continued interest in the line with a selection of recent works on display. Canvas Gallery is also collaborating a show of 8 upcoming and midcareer artists titled “Multiple Narratives” at the Grosvenor Gallery, bringing some of these artists into the international limelight for the first time. Artists include Salman Toor, Muzzamil Ruheel, Mahbub Jhokio, Sajjad Nawaz, and Wardah Shabbir, among other.
The Van Abbemuseum is hosting an ongoing retrospective of the Pakistani master of contemporary minimalist sculpture, Rasheed Araeen. The exhibit is structured across five chapters: from his early experiments in painting in Karachi in the 1950s and early 60s, his pioneering minimalist sculptures conceived after his arrival in London in 1964, key pieces from the 70s and 80s following Araeen’s political awakening, his nine panel cruciform works from the 80s and 90s and a selection of his new geometric paintings and wall structures. Alongside this, material relating to Araeen’s writing, editorial and curatorial projects, are also on display as part of an expanded artistic practice that in its scope and ambition continues to challenge the formal, ideological and political assumptions of Eurocentric modernism. The show is a perfect encapsulation of the artist’s diversified practice, providing a comprehensive view into his prolific oeuvre. The show is accompanied by a monograph, edited by Nick Aikens and published by JRP Ringier in collaboration with Van Abbemuseum, MAMCO, BALTIC and Garage, which includes new essays by a number of foreign writers, including Aikens, Kate Fowle, Courtney Martin, and Michael Newman, as well as an extensive conversation between Aikens and Araeen.
The young artist Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto is also internationally involved in a curatorial capacity with the show ‘The Third Muslim: Queer and Trans* Muslim Narratives of Resistance and Resilience’, which he has co-curated with Yas Ahmed at the SOMArts Cultural Center. This is the second exhibition in the 2017–18 season of the SOMArts Curatorial Residency, and brings together artists whose queer, trans*, gender non-conforming and Muslim identities have consistently marginalized them within the margins, a pertinent topic to explore indeed, especially for an artist hailing from Pakistan. The exhibit insists on the transformative potential of self-representation, revealing the multiplicity of Muslim and queer identities and experiences, also challenging gender-based oppression within Islam, as well as racism (specifically, colorism and anti-blackness) and Islamophobia within mainstream queer and trans* communities. The show also includes works by Pakistani artists Numair A. Abbasi, Abdullah Qureshi and Mohsin Shafi.
I am very excited for one of the ArtNow team members, Jovita Alvares, and would like to congratulate her on her first solo show presented by the Imran Mir Art Foundation, who awarded her the Imran Mir Art Prize in its second cycle in 2016. The show was curated by Aziz Sohail at the Imran Mir House and featured her latest body of work developed over the past year, taking forward her explorations of her surroundings, revealing undertones of living in the urban expanse of Karachi through the metaphor of the bougainvillea, a foreign flower that thrives in the arid climate through its resilience, standing our starkly within the grey and desolate landscape. The works on display showed some interesting experimentations by the artist and presented her ideas in a multiplicity of forms.
I would like to congratulate the graduating class of the Karachi School of Arts, whose thesis was on display this month. This was the 49th annual Thesis Display Show of KSA. My congratulation also go out to the graduating MA ADS students at the Mariam Dawood School of Visual Arts and Design(SVAD) at the Beaconhouse National University (BNU), Lahore, and wish all the new artists and designer the best of luck in their future endeavors.
The Vasl Artist’s Association has started the year strong with a number of projects already underway. ‘Karachi Ka Manzar Nama’ is a series of exhibitions for the Azme-Naujawan Project that will showcase works of established and upcoming artists based in Karachi. The project attempts to bring art to the masses and engage the recovering city’s public spaces and its community through art and culture. The first exhibition in the series took place at Mauripur on the 14th of January, and visitors from the neighbourhood were invoted to “..explore the pleasures and challenges of urban living through a range of mediums from sculpture, prints to light boxes..”. The second exhibition the series took place on the 23rd of January in Lyari. It is refreshing to see art coming out of the white cube and entering the fabric of the city through these unprecedented spaces for exhibition. It will be exciting to see where else the project will travel next. Vasl also announced their latest artist in residence Hira Nabi this month, who will be displaying her culminating works at the Vasl Rooftop on the 3rd of Feb. Hira Nabi is an artist, filmmaker and researcher, whose artistic and research-based practice spans video, installations, photography, audio, and text. Her work looks at repositories of memory in urban landscapes, contested or imagined histories and labor. Her work during the residency “explores Gadani’s ship breaking yard as a site of fractured stories and contesting truths. Her research and work comes out of an ongoing preoccupation with labor, networks of capital and movement, human vulnerability and a re-centering of the environment as a primary site of investigation. This work revisits different, and often contrasting narratives on accidents, ownership of ships, and ways of existence. It contemplates the surrealist surroundings with the quotidian workplace occurrences that remain universal concerns,” according to her statement.
VM Centre for Traditional Arts is also abuzz with activity, bringing art courses and workshops in partnership with the Prince’s School of Traditional Arts, London. The aim is to revive traditional skills and techniques and to revitalize the relevance of traditional arts in contemporary Pakistan. While the trajectory of contemporary art in Pakistan is exciting, our traditions have their own place in our cultural milieu but often become overlooked. Initiatives like these are paramount in ensuring we keep these traditions alive and provide them with a space in a contemporary framework. VMCTA opens its doors with five introductory courses in its Open Programme, which are meant to lay the foundation for future, more extensive courses for the training of tutors in Karachi. VMCTA was established in June 2017 by a partnership agreement between the VM Trust for Education in Pakistan and The Prince’s School of Traditional Arts, in London. Interested applicants can contact the VM Centre at firstname.lastname@example.org for bookings and queries.
It has also been an exciting month of local exhibitions. Sanat Gallery held three shows during the month, beginning with “Close Encounters” featuring intriguing works by Rabia Ejaz that played with size in interesting new ways. “Raze to the Ground/ Politics of Playground” explored new avenues in art making with a lecture performance by Noor Saeed, which was followed by a discussion moderated by Shahana Rajani. In her performance Noor explored Osama Bin Laden’s death site in regional, national and international contexts and the discussion questioned the need for monuments for the sake of remembrance and whether an empty space could be more effective for this purpose. This was followed by “I Have to Tell You a Story”, a two person show with figurative works exploring themes of gender identity and sexuality by Numair A. Abbasi and Amna Rahman. Anotehr exciting display this month opened at the Gandhara Art-Space, a show with works by Fazal Rizvi curated by Aziz Sohail. The works have a heavy focus on the sea and its vessels as a motif to navigate the politics surrounding it, and its inevitable relationship with the land that it exists parallel to. the works are supplemented by a site specific audio and sound project on the ocean itself, taking limited pre-booked audiences on boat rides from Kemari, which adds an exciting new layer to the works and becomes a sensory experience in itself that pushes the work into new dimensions.
Bye for NOW!