The show titled ‘Maidaan’ took place on the 4th of June, 2018 at the Koel Gallery. Curated by Nurayah Sheikh Nabi, it encompassed the multidisciplinary art practices of nine emerging artists who focused on individual ideas and thought processes but at the same time, their joint venture reflected on the mood and environment of the city they reside in.
The artists used mediums such as painting, sculpture, drawing and video but there was more variety in painting as compared to other techniques. Sakina Ali’s visuals consisted of paintings of briefcases and a series of objects which were painted on to a large, wooden table. Her paintings discussed the mere identity of her grandfather who had passed away fifteen years ago, leaving behind a briefcase of his personal and treasured belongings. The striking part of her work was the realism, which was strong enough to depict the manifestation of her grandfather’s presence in the painted objects. Another painter, Ameerah Motiwala, whose work also depicted the use of objects like tables and chairs, discussed the concept of social gatherings generated through the use of these items. The usage of the raw color palette and sketchy lines not only enhanced the visual balance but it also added life to her paintings, despite having no traces of human presence. Although the two painters have different painting styles, it is interesting to see how both the artists have depicted human existence through the use of objects, by experimenting with scale, color and placement.
Sanya Hussain’s paintings discussed the memory she had of the abandoned homes of friends and relatives, reflecting on the busy mood of Karachi in which people are always on the lookout for better accommodations and living. The layered visuals, built up with the muted color palette, not only have a ghastly quality but there is also a feeling of sadness and longing, possibly a reflection of the artist’s memories of these spaces. Sanaan Shamsi’s paintings were based on newspaper archives through which he made architectural spaces. By taking the reference of archives which were about traumatic incidents, he has attempted to trigger certain feelings and emotions in his visuals, possibly through the use of a strong color palette and sharp angles. The play with perspective in his art pieces titled ‘Fictional Trajectories’ is haunting enough to give a feeling of stillness and macabre.
Shanza Raza Khan’s painted visuals are movie stills which are the mere depiction of certain violent and crime scenes, as she sees violence as a growing epidemic in Pakistan. Taking the example of the monochromatic series ‘Remains of the Day’, the visuals have a sense of expectancy in them, as if a disaster is about to occur; possibly through the eerie stillness that is created within the images. Since the works of Hussain, Shamsi and Khan were discussing spaces, what needs to be noted in their works are the different auras and moods that are being created through experimenting with size, layering, color and also, by using different painting languages as that is what gives volume and strength to paintings.
Mohammed Idrees Runija who had made sculptures-cum-contraptions out of chainaks (kettles) and keip (funnels) discussed his childhood interest in deconstructing mechanical toys and rearranging them to create different machines of his choice. His work also introduced a different technique of painting in which paint was poured down the machine made out of funnels and once the machine was activated, it started to move resulting in a pattern unknown to the viewers but leaving them in awe. On the other hand, Maha Minhaj had created drawings-cum-sculptures in which she had addressed memories and nostalgia in the form of bodies. By attempting to erase the grime of the surface, not only is she using this as a form of therapy but also an attempt to forgetting the memory of the bodily forms. Interestingly, the marks and layers of erasure seem as if it they are an attempt to escape from a cluster or chaos, which could be a reflection of the self-healing process that the artist is addressing in her statement.
Zainab Abdul Hussain made miniature sized drawings of various forms of covering that she observes while exploring the city. She addresses them as a form of shield or protection, inspired by her Dawoodi Bohra communal attire that is called ‘Rida’ which is basically a veil. The intricate details made her work heavily engrossing, creating more emphasis on the texture and feel of the particular cloth in the visuals, especially being on a smaller scale. Noor Butt’s work consisted of videos being projected on sculptures which depicted projections of human faces. Her work portrays the dissociation she has with her self-image while entering adulthood, since people nowadays use filters to portray themselves, lacking originality. Instead of depicting herself through a form of filter, she projects her portrait on a plain, white surface, resulting in an eerie but enticing visual; an attempt to figure out her own image. What needs to be noted is that since the artist herself states that her portrait is projected as if under execution, the art piece hence, ends up being treated like an object, which could also be reflective of the social pressures one faces of having perfection in facial features.
Despite having different mediums and languages, it is interesting how the artists have addressed their concepts and art pieces together to form a body of work and not only did their work have an individuality and an appealing quality but it also left the viewers to ponder and reflect upon the thought processes presented by the artists, by coming together on one platform.