A group show of 25 artists was held at VM Art Gallery in Karachi on 8th April 2019. While the participating artists all come from different cities, the show primarily brings together MA (hons) visual arts graduate students from NCA Lahore, hence the title ‘Lahore Junction’. The show records the transition each artist has foregone in their respective practice, creating a body of work that culminates works from their thesis and current area of interest.
The show included works by several painters. Asad Changaizi and Syrrah Ali use a similar palette to create ambiguous imagery comprising hues of greens and blues. Working with a similar aesthetic, Shahzad Tanvir and Zaman Baloch both use intricate designs and iconography resembling that of caves drawings. Ali Abrar’s oil on canvas pieces use fast, childlike strokes to represent his sense of freedom and innocence, also highlighting it through the image of a spinning top. Noorulain plays with 3-dimensionality on a 2D surface by using rendering of light and shadow on geometrical shapes in a cutout form. Sajjad Nawaz’s monochromatic drawings depict hazy, ambiguous imagery of natural landscapes, while Sadia Farooq’s miniature pieces create a mandala of floral patterns. Aneela Ansari also incorporates patterns into her work, using the medium of embroidery on metal and mirror on canvas.
One of the few artists in the show focusing on the human figure, Buland Iqbal’s realistic renditions in oil paint depict sullen looking subjects, while another piece depicts a distorted version of his human figure in a digital photo manipulation. Sarah Yousaf also works with the human figure, using animal skin in her macabre sculptural pieces to reconfigure them to resemble the human body instead. Sophia Mairaj uses her figures in silhouetted shadows, covering two separate walls using lights and furniture to create the illusion of a social setting. Mairaj and Mariam Hanif both also work with portraits. Mairaj’s portraits continue with her ambiguous aesthetic, while Hanif merges the human face with animal features.
Another recurring theme was that of facades and buildings. Bahrera Basit’s oil paints on archival print pieces use digitally created montages of different terrace windows, juxtaposing them into one uniform image. Rida Fatima creates lifelike replicas of walls through bricks and concrete (bearing a resemblance to works by artist Noor Ali Chagani). Adnan Mairaj’s vertical mixed media pieces focus more on architectural construction. He overlays text from the poem ‘Refugee Blues’ by W.H. Auden, which focuses on the theme of displacement and feeling un-welcomed in a large city, creating symbolism through towering buildings.
Several other artists incorporated texts in their works. Arshia Sohail uses candle wax to create 3D alphabet pieces and lays them out to spell the word ‘Humanity’. She also creates the illusion of a mirror by using a dry layer of paint on stainless steel, highlighting the word ‘See’. Rida Zainab’s digital print reads out text in Urdu: ‘Asoodgi harfisat na yahan hai na wahan hai’ (Peace and tranquility are neither here nor there). Zainab also uses a mirror, placed behind a ruler, to reflect the image pasted behind it of an urban setting. Seher Jalil uses a childlike colour palette and handwriting to write out the words ‘I will write letters to you every day and ask for paradise wherever I am. Will you give it?’ where some words were spelled out with actual rosary beads pasted on top. She also mimics a similar childlike/dreamlike sentiment in her triptych, merging washes of paint with cutout images. One of Zohreen Murtaza’s prints says ‘U r the only one 1 who has my attention…but it’s kind of silent…nowadays’, while her other prints write down ‘Now the latest fashion here is…’ and then proceeds to describe details of clothing styles. Rabia Shahnawaz’s video loop depicts a hand writing the words ‘Jab mein ne bolna seekha tou lafz aik aik karkey mujh mein samaney lagey aur alfaz…’ (When I learned to speak, the words stayed within me one by one and the words…) which then proceeded to scribble and cross out the whole text.
Others who worked with the medium of video were Nida Ramzan and Kanwal Tariq. Both artists presented minimalistic videos on loop, using imagery that was ambiguous and abstract. One of Ramzan’s videos titled ‘Breath’ showed a white balloon being blown up with air, but with no identifiable subject apart from the sound of their breath, while the other video was a projection of a silhouetted figure wiping a window. Tariq’s two videos depicted a goldfish swimming around in a glass of water, while the other video featured a performance piece of two people and a block of clay.
Two artists who used unconventional mediums were Yasir Azeem and Wajahat Ali. Azeem uses melted red wax on canvas, like that used on seals. Each seal engraves portraits of different people in the blood-like red wax. Another piece depicts a step-by-step transition of abstract shapes, resembling the growth of a foetus. Ali incorporates a black light into his pieces. Upon first glance, the image of Indian and Pakistani guards at Wagah Border is on a white background. With the use of a black light, a hidden image of a train station from partition-era appears in the empty spaces, insinuating subtle references to history and the stories that are often overlooked.
The show presented a large collection of works, comprising of young artists, each working with their own refined aesthetics and practices. Though each individual and distinct, the show was crafted in a way that amalgamated all 25 artists together to intersect at a singular meeting point.