Welcome to the November 2017 issue of ArtNow. This is one of the most exciting times for Pakistani art, with the inaugural Karachi Biennale underway and going strong. For the past week Pakistani art has been enjoying its time in the spot light and looks forward to exciting to trajectories in the international limelight in the coming years. It is unprecedented to see so much public interest and engagement for the arts in Karachi, with over 140 artists from across the globe participating in non-stop activities, workshops, discussions, performances, exhibitions and events taking place simultaneously across 12 plus venues across the city. A hearty congratulation is due to the Karachi Biennale Foundation and its team who have done an excellent job, particularly CEO, Niilofur Farrukh and curator, Amin Gulgee, whose relentless energy and resources have made the biennale an astounding success.
I would like to congratulate Ali Kazim on winning the first Mahvish and Jahangir Siddiqui Juried Art Prize, which was announced at the KB17 opening ceremony at the NJV School. The Lahore based artist received the award for his 3-D drawing made exclusively out of human hair, a hauntingly striking display at the IVS Gallery. Kazim’s work was picked from among 140 artworks included in the Biennale by a jury comprising of international cultural journalist, Ingo Arand; modern and contemporary South Asian art critic, Savita Apte and leading Pakistani contemporary art collector, Khurrum Kasim. The award is part of the Karachi Biennale Trust’s effort to recognize the contributions and talents of Pakistani artists, and is a welcomed addition to the Pakistani art scene that will help raise the standards of art being produced in the region even further.
The past week has been a frenzied, whirlwind attempt to take in as much of the KB17’s programming as possible. As proud Art Media partners for KB17, ArtNow has made it a priority to stay ahead and push boundaries to create awareness of all the exciting moments that have been taking place. ArtNow’s special correspondent for the Biennale, Saira Danish Ahmed has been working tirelessly to provide on the spot coverage of every performance, every talk and every venue of KB17. It is exciting to see the art community and public at large coming out to witness and celebrate art, and to respond to the KB17’s attempt to bring the audience out of their comfort zone, and bring art out of the white cube of the gallery space. The 12 venues include buildings that are currently in use for various purposes, including the historical Narayan Jagannath Vaidya High School, Jamshed Memorial Hall, Capri Cinema, 63 Commissariat Lines, and Pioneer Book House. The Biennale was cleverly spread across different areas of the city with venues also at, Frere Hall, FOMMA, Claremont House, Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture, Karachi School of Art, VM Art Gallery and the Alliance Françiase. The educational programs and family activities are also commendable in their efforts to engage the public and pique their interest in the arts.
The first Karachi Biennale put a heavy focus on new media and performance works which brought a certain richness and excitement to the event. Notable performances included Jamal Shah’s Situation 101 in the Frere Hall garden, Tazeen Qayyum’s “Unvoiced”, Muhammad Ali Mirchi’s “Cleansing”, Kanwal Tariq’s “Any Last Words”, Miro Caemer’s “OverxCome”, Wolfgang Spahn’s light and sound performance “Entropie”, Quddus Mirza’s “WIT-NESS” at Canvas Gallery, and the interactive Drum Circle led by Ibadullah Sheikh.
The FOMMA DHA Art Center also emerged as a strong venue for KB17 with a number of paintings, photographs, sculptures, new media and performance works on display. It was an honor to host the KB17 team and the international and local art community that attended the biennale. It is exciting to be part of something that will open new doors for Pakistani art and will achieve great things in its future iterations. The artists who displayed at FOMMA were: Adeela Suleman, Hamra Abbas, Akif Suri, Gordon Cheung, Sadia Salim, Anwar Saeed, Mohsin Shafi, Shalalae Jamil, Ali Azmat, Gordon Cheung, Broerson &Lukacs, Samra Roohi and Sungjin Song as well as a performance piece by local artist, Imaan Siddiqui.
It was great to meet and spend time with Henry Kim and Saira Hashwani of the Aga Khan Museum again who were for the Karachi Biennale and to meet with the artists.
Internationally Waqas Khan is once again making waves with his mesmerizingly intricate art works displayed at the Manchester Art Gallery. These works are painstakingly created by the artist and are diverse in their scale, ranging from small drawings to large-scale pieces. These repetitive marks are almost meditative for the artist who spends months on each piece. Khan’s main purpose is to connect with different communities through his art, which is reflected in his neon sign in Urdu script displayed at the gallery entrance, which is meant to attract the South Asian and Arabic communities into the gallery space.
A big congratulation to Veeda Ahmed whose recent exhibition ‘Echoes of Contemplation’ displayed at the Prince’s School of Traditional Arts. Veeda, who is a graduate from the Prince’s School, explores the historical writings and working practices of old miniature paintings in her work. The artist initially trained at the University of Punjab, Lahore followed by the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art, Oxford University and the Prince’s School. She is a critically acclaimed artist with over 40 worldwide exhibitions to her name.
Frieze London held its 15th iteration in early October at Regent’s park, with 160 Galleries coming together with exciting displays of contemporary art in a variety of mediums. It once again succeeded in being a hub of art activity and discourse, creating an exciting environment for art buying and selling. Galleries from Lima, Peru Bogota, Colombia, Cape Town, and Cairo made their debut at the fair. However, a testament to the fair’s maturity as a contemporary art event is the newest edition in the form of a section independently curated by Alison Gingeras, “Sex Work: Feminist Art and Radical Politics”, which brought some non-commercial work to platform concerned with selling art.
We are excited for the upcoming Abu Dhabi Art Fair, which is an integral addition to the list of exciting art events on the regional art calendar. With a keen focus on its public engagement program, Abu Dhabi Art has activated the audiences with events, activities and public discourse throughout the year, and expects over 20,000 visitors in its culminating art event in the beginning of this November featuring extensive art installations and site specific works. This year’s offerings are set to be bigger and more diverse than ever before, and it will be exciting to see what Abu Dhabi has in store for us.
We can’t wait for the opening of Art Dubai 2018 next March especially with the recent announcement from two Karachi based galleries. We are thrilled to here about the participation of Canvas Gallery at Art Dubai with the solo exhibition Muzammil Raheel and also the participation of Sanat Initiative who will be displaying a solo exhibition of Muhammad Zeeshan; a hearty congratulation to both galleries. On a recent visit to Pakistan, ArtNow had the opportunity to interview the latest Director of Art Dubai, Myrna Ayad about her visit to our country and upcoming plans for the fair. Be sure to read in this month’s issue.
On 23 October 2017, a new Centre for Traditional Arts opened its doors in Karachi. The VM Centre for Traditional Arts (to be known as the VMCTA) has set out to nourish and promote Pakistani artistic traditions and cultural heritage through its education programmes and exhibitions. VMCTA aims to revive traditional art skills and techniques and to revitalize the relevance of traditional arts in contemporary Pakistan. For the better understanding of the courses provided, VMCTA has been conducting free lectures. The first held on October 27th ‘Contemporary Painting and Traditional Practice’ was conducted by Farkhondeh Ahmedzadeh and another will be held in the first week of November, ‘Originality and Tradition’ by Dr. Liza Delong.
Illustrations and paintings by the Pakistani Master Sadequain have recently emerged and are being displayed at Gallery 6, Islamabad. The artist had made these drawing for poet Parto Rohelo’s book “Rainn Ujyara”, as well as made gifts of some of his calligraphic works to his family, which have recently been brought to the attention of the Sadequain Foundation in USA. This presents a great chance for lovers of the iconic artist to admire and possibly acquire some of his works, which have never been viewed before.
I would like to take a moment and extend my deepest regrets on the sad passing away of renowned veteran artist Tassaduq Sohail on October 2nd 2017 at the age of 87. Sohail was born in Jalhandar, and following his training in the arts at Central Saint Martin’s College of Art and Design, he spent 40 years in the UK practicing art and story writing before moving back to Karachi. His immaculate paintings hold a dreamlike quality, a testament to his vastly bizarre imagination. His works are at once profound yet childlike, and focused heavily on nature, animals and stylized figures and portraiture as well as elements of the supernatural. He was a storyteller with both words and images, and his eccentric wit will be surely missed by all.
Finally, I would like to commend the recent exhibition of the late legend Imran Mir that is taking place at the Mohatta Palace Museum. The show is curated by museum director Nasreen Askari and Prof. Durriya Kazi, who have brought together an extensive collection of his works highlighting the most prominent and exciting aspects of his abstract geometric works. The artist was able to successfully combine his design sensibilities with his artistic tendencies, exploring line, colour, form and space in his large-scale paintings and sculptural works. Three years after his passing the loss is still deeply felt by his friends and admirers, as well as the art community at large.
Bye for NOW!