Life manifests in many forms. Of its forms is the annual degrees show at an art institution. This year 30 graduating students of Fine Art Department, National College of Arts Lahore presented their works in different forms, dimensions and genres. Their works, in the words of Quddus Mirza, Head of Fine Art Department:“…embody elements of excitement, and enrichment. Emerging from personal experiences, and observations, these works represent how graduating students deal with issues that concern not only a person working as an artist today, but are valid and relevant for an audience not formally trained in art or informed about it, along with viewers from different periods and places.
“Videos, installations, sculptures, miniature paintings, paintings, mixed media works, prints and drawings are segments of a visual vocabulary. But despite the differences in approaches all works reveal the way a young person views the world, mirrored in his/her self.” Thus the work in first gallery space represents the way life is recycled and reproduced. Death is not the end, but a step towards eternal life. Images of graveyards, mounds and tombstones rendered in varying tones of grey in the works of Bilal Khalid address the presence of death in our existence. Dark shades in these works on paper invoke a feeling of loneliness, a sense of unknown and an atmosphere of silence. The silence or stillness is created in the paintings of plastic plants by Rao Hassan Nasir. These indicate a shift in a culture that practices and prefers replica in place of actual entity. Immaculately rendered details of flowers, stems and leafs against different background suggest a shift in the sensibility of society, in which economic pressures and factors, as well as information technology have created and enhanced a taste for artificial reality. The artificiality is addressed through the reality of art making with the studio of an artist recreated inside the gallery, thus diminishing the difference between making and viewing.
A work of art regardless of its subject, focus and inspiration, mainly reflects its maker, his/her world, and world view. Paintings refer to artists’ memories, immediate and far: From childhood, from travel and observation of one’s surroundings. Past in large paintings by Tooba Ashraf is recreated more than a factual testimony. An assemblage of memories; collected, composed and converted from the family photographs into personal narrative, in which recollections are rendered like the world of dreams. From personal to public, the paintings of people in differing situations by Jahanzeb Haroon offer memories of things past, but not in a photographic manner. Here these individuals, spaces and objects, from different sources or perspectives are combined in order to convey a personal vision which includes a circus, a domestic environment, a shared room. Blending the visual sources from Italy and Pakistan confirms shared actions, emotions and situations of human beings despite of difference in culture or geography.
Darkness unfolds different things to different people. Each individual recognizes and reads a personal view of the world – daubed in dark hues. Darkness also remind us of our prehistoric past when human beings and animals closely a world, closely. In the work of Fizza Hassan that world is resurrected with the spread of foliage, plants and animals, in which more than the representation of a certain time or a specific place, a feeling of fear, uncertainty and vastness is communicated. Same sensation can be experienced in a domestic setting rendered by Esha Suhail. Interiors of familiar houses turn extraordinary due to presence of some unusual elements; light, colour, items, absence of human beings. All that serves to transform ordinary surroundings into metaphors about life, relationship and passage of time.
Personal relationships as well as other means of communication connect individuals. For a society human interaction is as essential as the tools for linking people across cities, countries and continents. One of its manifestations is the electricity wire that joins a community. The power, presence and poetry of these wires – translated in lines in the paintings of Risham Faiz, offer the beauty of these industrial items, and in the miniatures of Rahman Zada these substitute human organs, veins and arteries. In large scale paintings of Risham Faiz, city is transformed into a web of wires, poles, and clusters, all presenting a crowded scenario. Similarly, the blend between present and past, linking traditional imagery with present sensibility in Rahman Zada’s miniatures represent a familiar and contemporary reality.
A comment on the tradition of miniature painting can be a continuity of it. Adapting the conventional imagery either to depict personal pain, private concerns or critique political positions are ways to make new inventions in the art of past. Use of traditional format of elaborate borders, flowery frames, inclusion of wounds, body organs and colour connected to blood in the miniatures of Aliha Ahmed Qureshi, represent element of human presence but with a different – and private/painful point of view. Likewise twists in the traditional imagery of miniature painting by Syeda Sana Najam Bokhari, is an exercise towards incorporating present sensibility, along with a comment on the political conditions and the institution of power. The introduction of tiny objects and entities in the grandiose set of narrative is also an attempt to question the construct of history and historical truths.
Art about art is the main concern in works which deal with the act of viewing, understanding and enjoying an art work. Ali Sahriq’s text based painting, video installation, works on paper and canvas, refer to the practice, norms and necessity of producing art. These also deal with concepts such as reality and replica, originality and reproduction, and conversion of image into word – and vice versa. Relating to the distance, difference and division of visual and verbal vocabularies, these works present inquiries more than solutions. Questions about the form and formats of two-dimensionality are also invoked in works of Kousar Hashmi, in which flatness of a surface is converted into an imaginary, dream like world with paths, passages and plants moving and merging into each other. Traces of vehicles, road signs, lanes and footpaths create an uncommon balance and blend between nature and culture, between jungle and city, between mountains and man-made objects.
Like human – their images are innumerable, varying from each other; offering unexpected, unusual and uncommon situations. Forms that whirl, pulsate, move, turn, twist and transform remind of bodies or parts of human organs. However, translated in such a manner that these become exercises in colour, texture, tones, shapes and space. Painted on paper by Sabeen Ahsen, or constructed with a range of materials by Maha Sohail these works represent the essence of human being through personal interpretations. Interwoven threads and layers of blood like colour along with reminding of human presence suggest aspects of pain, discomfort and disfiguration all internalized and conveyed using the language of art.
Geometry, a human invention represents a range of meanings in every culture and community. Sacred, spiritual or secular, forms of geometry represent mankind’s attempt to control and confine. Relationship of natural forms with precise shapes – triangle, circle, octagon that leads to duality, is addressed in the miniatures of Namsh Touqir by making mirror image of a character, a place a plant. Other interpretations of geometry in different stages of history and in various civilizations are seen as inscriptions on notebook pages by Eman Sara Siddiqi. Looking like drawings, doodling and text written in pencil, these are rendered with brush on wasli, thus offering another layer of meaning, since the history of miniature is also a testimony of infusing geometry. The inner and outer is invoked in the mixed media works of Sehrish Mustafa. Feeling of infinite or a second skin is created on small scale through glazes on a luminous surface. The sense of loss is evident in works, which lead a viewer’s gaze to stretches of landscape, modulated surface of water, as well as surprise in discovering traces of a wound, a mark, a forgotten object – all referring to human condition.
World is created in contrasts. Day/night, light/darkness, truth/lie, pain/pleasure. Noreen Jahan, addressing dichotomies, and differences, has made walls that either turn like the inside of a round object, or constructed with bricks but have remains of left out shopping bags stuck to the other side. Or plastic wrappings which contained bottles of mineral water – and now an industrial waste are converted into a cloud; cloud a source of water. These works indicate the dualities which are part of our existence. Entities which at the same instance represent beauty, perfection, but on the other hand refer to decay and worthlessness. In the miniature painting of Shahid Altaf Awan a similar approach is visible, in which ideal landscapes are constructed with heaps of rubbish. Mountains amid a pretty setting are actually the accumulations of garbage, abundant in our urban areas. The comparison of serene sky, and colourful fields to a mound that from a distance appears to be part of the same environment – but is composed of unwanted materials, is a record, and revelation of our reality.
Instead of a single vision reality is made of multiple versions. Sometimes these are overlapped to create complex scenarios, or composed with each other on the same surface to offer a new entity, with varying outer and inner layers. All these approaches are evident in the installations of Hira Awais. Sheets of fabric, pieces of a transparent material and papers of different kinds depict a mental landscape, consists of memory, recollection, loss, and nostalgia. The inclusion of human in a space which seems infinite, even though contained within a rectangular box signifies a general state of being.
Multiplication of organic forms in black and white linocut prints by Minahil Ijaz creates another reality, that is unseen, but can be felt, because certain areas and portions are recognized as belonging to human and animal world. A symbolic representation of present scheme of things. In which an individual amid a world of noises, vegetation, and people, still is a single human being.
In the miniature paintings of Syed Noroz Ali people lying on ground, situated behind leaves, sleeping – in a city turn into a shadow of themselves. The world of uncertainty is illustrated through alienation of self, or through interaction with others in which one part of self remains unrevealed and unsaid. A set of imagery that denotes private concerns as well as political problem, since the institution of power reduces a living being into a shadow of himself/herself.
In the work of Rizwan un Nabi Butt a moth trying to fly, flee and free itself also becomes a metaphor for human struggle. Much like the lights, buildings, colours seen through an overpowering web/mesh/stretch of lines in his miniatures. Traces of houses, details of windows, parts of terraces, segments of grills in buildings suggest a view that is an illusion of life, sound and human touch.
All of us leave our traces – visible or imperceptible on objects we use. Sometimes in the memory of people we know. Often on the slat of history. Usually these memories are mingled, mixed, merged, and manipulated – occasionally erased and razed. In the works on paper by Nizam ud Din, images of bygone periods, missing persons, distant eras and diffused pasts are resurrected to comment upon the presentation and representation of history. Group photos of important figures now lost in the pages of past still exist in the mind of many, but each recollection is a unique appearance, like the works, in which features, forms and figures are modulated, modified and melted with the passage of time.
People express them through art, but in life too. By scribbling, scrawling and scratching their names on trees, monuments and other public places. Graffiti is a way of making one visible, and immortal. Zarina Khan, by blending images scattered on the city walls and imagery from traditional miniature painting, creates a new set of visuals in which public art and private practice merge, offering a synthesis of reality, history and fantasy. The world of parallel reality is witnessed in the act of devotions as well, mostly shown at the shrines of saints. Our public’s sentiments towards a spiritual being is illustrated through artefacts of faith, postures of spiritual submission, and architecture for a scared purpose/need. In Hajira Ahmed’s work carefully captured details of buildings, objects, and purity of light add into the sense of devotion and spirituality in our culture and community.
If eyes are the window of soul, face is the emblem of self. Our faces convey our inner feelings, emotions, temporary states, and deep rooted habits. In the work of Anusha Khalid, features drawn with broad brush strokes in huge scale preserve the moment in the life of a person. In that brief moment, model’s personality is portrayed with powerful, quick and varying brush marks. Large portraits have a monumental quality about human presence, permanence and a sense of being alive, inviting and engaging with the viewers. The human concern is addressed again in the work of Shehzil Raza Zaidi by depicting the life and mind of a woman concerned with weight. Through a vocabulary, both serious as well humorous, linocut prints narrate the situation and effort of a person trying to alter herself. A long passage, but which leads to a new identity.
A different identity is often discovered when one steps out of himself. Leaves his place, comfort and conditions. starts a journey. Experiences of travel both physical and internal are suggested in the video installations of Israr Ahmed with papers fluttering on a busy street at night, beams of headlights of approaching cars, emanates a sense of fear of the unknown. A danger of the familiar, an atmosphere of uncertainty due to darkness spread outside that leads to an inner dimness. However being at the Fine Art Degree Show 2017, was an enlightening experience, something to remember, when some of these graduating students will become great names of our art, and the art world.