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Letter from the Editor-in-Chief

 

I am very excited to welcome you to the March 2018 issue of ArtNow, “Art Beyond Borders”, which opens up the exciting diasporic art activities that saturate the art landscape this time of the year to our readers. After the Dhaka Art Summit and India Art Fair, we can now look forward to Art Dubai, which is one of the largest art events of the region. Art Dubai 2018, one of the largest art events in the region, is now in its 12 edition and is set to take place March 21st-24th. However, my most anxious anticipation is for the newest addition to the regional art calendar, the Lahore Biennale 2018, which begins on the 18th of March.

 

Our latest issue guides our audience through some of these major events, with an in depth look at the Dhaka Art Summit by Sophia Balagamwala that is a must read. I am also very happy to announce the addition of two new sections in our magazine, “Retrospectives” and “Art Spaces”, which will give us a chance to honor those personalities and institutions who have contributed tremendously in bringing the Pakistani art world to where it is today. This month we inaugurate Retrospectives with artist Shakeel Siddiqui, the master of still life who recently passed away. His impeccable skill at realism has earned him a special place in Pakistani art history, and ArtNow explores his amazing life and career through this little reflective tribute. Art Spaces will begin by looking at VM Art Gallery, which stands as one of Karachi’s oldest and most expansive art galleries, not only providing a space to encourage the proliferation of art, but also showcasing the works of emerging artists to launch their careers, organizing discursive activities to encourage dialogue and questioning, and maintains an Art Resource Centre and scholarship programs to promote education and learning. The space was founded by the Rangoonwala Trust in 1987, as part of the Rangoonwala Community Centre for the promotion of arts, craft and culture in society, which are an inherent part of the community and the region. There was a need to encourage creativity, diversity, innovation, self-expression, and reflection that challenged current perceptions, a goal that the gallery continues to fulfill within the nurturing hands of its Gallery Director, Riffat Alvi.

 

As anticipation builds around Lahore this month, I would like to add to the buzz and urge all my readers not to miss out on the inaugural Lahore Biennale. With both Karachi and Lahore taking this overwhelming initiative to alter the landscape of Pakistani art in the international context, this is a significant time to be involved in the art world and have the chance to witness history in the making. LB01 is set to be a fourteen-day event that seeks to “deploy Lahore as a platform for a dynamic art exhibition for an audience of millions of people.” With an array of exciting artworks and site-specific projects on display, along with a strong discursive, educational and cultural outreach program in place, the biennale is well situated to foster a new and more meaningful understanding of the city and the region. Through an engagement with Lahore the artists and audience will be able to maneuver its complexities and experience it as an intricate, multi-layered urban space. The opening weekend stretched from the 17th till the 19th of March is set to cover projects and artworks by the 60 artists at seven display sites in Mughal, Colonial and Modern Lahore, and will feature talks, discussions and musical programs.

 

The Lahore Biennale Foundation also recently announced a set of workshops and a seminar as part of the Academic Forum of the Lahore Biennale. This includes an Art Writing Workshop led by award-winning art critic Jyoti Dhar, a Curatorial Workshop led by scholar and curator Elvira Dyangani Ose, and a Seminar on Climate Change led by noted scholar Tj Demos. The LBF welcomes applicants from across Pakistan, with travel and board sponsored for those teaching in institutions of higher education by the American Institute of Pakistan Studies (AIPS).

 

It is great to see such exciting representation of Pakistan at Art Dubai, with Sanat Gallery participating in Art Dubai Contemporary, with a solo presentation of works by Muhammad Zeeshan. Grosvenor Gallery brings its presence with two booths, one at the Art Dubai Modern featuring works by Pakistani Modernists from 1950-1990, which will include Zahoor ul-Akhlaq, Ismail Gulgee, Ahmed Parvez, Syed Sadequain and Anwar Jalal Shemza, with most of the works on display being seen publicly for the very first time; the other at the main fair with recent works by Rasheed Araeen from the Opus series on display, as well as a newly created edition titled Mayz. I look forward to viewing these works at the fair later this month.

 

The omnipresence of Pakistani Art was also felt at the India Art Fair this year with Pakistani artists being displayed at multiple booths. Faiza Butt was part of the Grosvenor Gallery booth, displaying her new paintings along with 4 other international artists. Faiza Butt has been trained at the NCA, Lahore, and the Slade School of Art, London. Her intricately crafted compositions burst with cacophonic life and offer commentary on socio-politics, ethnic and religious identity, and the role of history in our current society. Aicon Art Gallery featured some prominent artists from South Asia, which included Pakistani artists Rasheed Araeen, Abdullah M.I Syed, and Salman Toor. Another Gallery that included a number of Pakistani artists in its mix was Anant Art, with works by Arslan Farooqi, Rehana Mangi, Muhammad Zeeshan, and Yasir Waqas on display. India Art Fair took place from the 9th-12th of February in New Delhi, and was paramount in providing a regional perspective of contemporary art through large scale installations, discourse, screenings, performances, live events, and extensive gallery participation for a deeper engagement with the audience and the artistic community.

 

Eminent Pakistani artist Adeel Uz Zafar once again appears in the international limelight with his participation in the group exhibit by FOST Gallery at the Art Fair Philippines 2018, which will take place from the 1st till the 4th of March. The artist’s trademark engravings on vinyl, contemplating the contradictions of our times and the erasure of innocence, have earned him international recognition and repute. Founded in 2013, Art Fair Philippines is the premier platform for exhibiting and selling the best in modern and contemporary Philippine visual art. The fair aims to mirror the vibrant local art scene and continue to generate support for Filipino art practitioners. Set in an alternative urban venue, Art Fair Philippines makes art accessible to enthusiasts and to those who want to discover one of Southeast Asia’s most exciting art landscapes.

 

I would like to congratulate the recently announced 10th Vasl Taaza Tareen Residents, Rahman Zada from NCA, Lahore, Mujtaba Asif, University of Karachi, Karachi, Sabeen Ahsan, NCA, Lahore, and Maryam Arslan, BNU, Lahore/IVSAA, Karachi. The residency will take place from March 4th till April 15th, and will focus on “Bijli, Pani Aur Gas”, the necessary yet increasingly scarce resources that govern the day-to-day living conditions and the social fiber of the city, as well as global territorial conflicts. The residency is supported by Canvas Gallery, which will award a Taaza Tareen Research Grant to one of the residents, to be selected by jury. The third and fourth exhibitions of the ‘Karachi ka Manzarnama’ series at the Sakhi Hassan and Chakra Goth locations in Karachi, respectively, organized by the Vasl Artist Association, also took place this month. The exhibitions, part of the ‘Azme Naujawan’ Project, invites visitors from the neighborhood to explore the pleasures and challenges of urban living through a range of mediums exhibited by the artists. As part of the project, the Vasl Director Adeela Suleman activated and engaged community members in the process of putting up an art show, and conducted 2 hours of art activities and workshops for community members to develop an alternative perspective of art-making by employing concepts of curiosity, open-mindedness, imagination and creativity.

 

More congratulations are in order for the 8 finalists of the 5th Jameel Prize, Kamrooz Aram, Hayv Kahraman, Hala Kaiksow, Mehdi Moutashar, naqsh collective, Younes Rahmoun, Wardha Shabbir and Marina Tabassum, which were recently announced by the V&A. The Jameel Prize is an international prize for contemporary artists and designers inspired by Islamic tradition which takes place every two years, awarding the winner a prize of £25,000. The Imran Mir Foundation has also issued an open call for entries for the 3rd cycle of its Imran Mir Art Prize, with a deadline of 5th of March. This year, the Imran Mir Art Foundation is collaborating with the Lahore Biennale Foundation with the announcement of the winner set to take place at the inaugural weekend of LB01. It is an amazing opportunity for emerging artists under 30 who are currently based in Pakistan, as it comes with a prize of Rs. 100,000, along with the opportunity to engage in a yearlong curatorial dialogue which will culminate in a body of work to be exhibited by the Foundation. The curatorial advisor for the award is once again Aziz Sohail, with jury members Hammad Nasar, Iftikhar Dadi and Deborah Robinson.

 

It gives me great pleasure to wish Koel Gallery a happy 10th anniversary, and congratulate them on this amazing milestone. It is hard to believe how much the team behind Koel has achieved in this short time, Promoting art and craft through multiple platforms and recently expanding to a much larger and more extensive space for more dynamic forms of display, as well as a designated space for a permanent display of artworks. The celebratory dinner at the gallery was accompanied by Noor Ali Chagani’s exhibition “Grey Spaces”, which recently concluded. The gallery is currently hosting works by celebrated diasporic artist Rasheed Araeen.

 

I AM KARACHI recently launched its book, titled ‘PUBLIC ART- Thriving in Karachi’s Urban Chaos’ by Masuma Halai Khawaja, at Canvas Gallery. Public art in Karachi is yet an emerging phenomenon, but one that is much welcomed. It has gained momentum with last year’s inaugural Karachi Biennale’s public outreach program, as well as the various public art projects initiated by I AM KARACHI, such as Walls of Peace and Munaqqash Public Art Project. I AM KARACHI aims to collectively rebuild the diverse social and cultural fabric of the city by providing a platform for likeminded organizations and individuals committed to promoting socio-cultural activities and campaigns as vehicles for peace building through art, culture, sports and dialogue.

 

Pakistan National Council of the Arts (PNCA) recently hosted a 3-day National Artists Convention, which was geared towards promoting the arts, crafts and culture of Pakistan and cultural collaboration between Pakistan and China, as well as discussing issues faced by the Pakistani artistic community that adversely affect the cultural environment of the country. The event featured seminars, competitions, exhibitions of visual art, performance art and handicrafts, short film screenings, cultural pavilions and stalls, and panel discussions. The culture and film policies which were briefly discussed by the State Minister for Information, Broadcasting and National Heritage, Marriyum Aurangzeb, provided a promising picture for the art and entertainment industry and the country at large. Some of the points discussed included establishment of finance fund and a film academy, building of film studios, restoration of the Directorate of Films and Publications, abolition of duty on import of film equipment, film censor fee and sales tax, and inclusion of artists in the health scheme. Under the cultural policy, the focus would be on building cultural infrastructure, promotion of visual and performing arts and theatre, promotion of music and other arts development and preservation sites of folk and traditional culture as well as archaeological sites.

 

The editor of ArtNow, celebrated art critic and artist Quddus Mirza recently curated a show at O Art Space in Lahore, comprising 10 eminent artists and their text based explorations that challenge perceptions of art itself. The lengthy title “In the Beginning was the WORD”, turns out to be the only explanation or elaboration that we receive, but it seems this is all that is needed. The works, by artists including Adeela Suleman, Muhammad Zeeshan, Ehsan Ul Haq and Madyha Leghari, do not simply incorporate text but almost exclusively turn it into the art object itself, not merely using it to convey meaning but making it the meaning.

 

I am very proud to announce ArtNow’s own artistic initiatives of the month. We recently concluded a curatorial venture in partnership with Artkaam Gallery, an extensive group show of fresh graduates bringing together artworks from the thesis shows of various institutes of Karachi. It is always heartwarming to see such ripe emerging talent exploring a variety of mediums and artistic concerns interpreted through contemporary practices. I would also like to take this opportunity to announce the 2nd edition of the ArtNow Art Paper, which brings selected works from our recent issues into print form in order to reach new audiences at home and abroad. The Art Paper is set to release this month to coincide with the various regional Art Fairs taking place currently, and will be an important addition to your collection of art reads of the season to supplement the online magazine.

 

Bye for NOW!

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