‘Nishaana’, meaning ‘target’, opened to viewers on 9th June at Canvas Gallery, featuring the works of twelve artists. The show was curated by four young third-year Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture interns – Andaleeba Akhtar, Bisma Raffat, Zayyana Kamran and Zoila Solomon. The curators said their thought process behind the show was to “amalgamate diverse works from different years under a single title”. The works selected concentrated on sociopolitical conditions of the country, some created fairly recently and others dating back to 2012.
Amra Khan’s work features images of a burka-clad woman, with only her eyes visible. The cloth has various graphics and designs stitched on, from skulls to cupcakes. Her work seems to focus on the media, fusing religion and advertising. What’s most interesting to note is the additions of logos and graphics are all placed over the cloth covering the mouth.
A Royal Elephant, gouache on wasli by Asif Ahmed,, features a bright red grenade imposed onto the image of an elephant in a soft wash of grey. Ahmed uses his imagery to speak of the various ever-changing roles employed by the masses.
The images that stand out with their blatant sexual oeuvre are the collaborative pieces by Zeeshan Muhammad and Muzzamil Ruheel, featuring phallic characters and inspired by Tom Wesselmann’s 1961 series, Great American Nude. Ruheel and Muhammad add their own creative spin to the imagery, allowing their unique aesthetics to shine through without overpowering the other. The curators chose these pieces as they felt the work symbolizes how human beings are regarded merely as sexual beings and can be targeted by that certain mindset.
Rehana Mangi’s work, created using her own hair stitched on wasli, can be associated with many aspects of society but Mangi’s work stems from a personal level; she started out making grids on wasli and by pure chance added on weaving her own hair into the work. What she termed was her escape from her reality was appreciated by her peers and teachers alike and garnered her much attention.
Allah ki Rassi and Riaya both oil on wooden pawns by Raheela Abro. Abro has chosen to replace the traditional wasli with wood. The selection of a pawn – the weakest piece in a game of chess – depicts the masses that are being trod upon by those in power. Her use of the owl is a take on the notion that the ‘ullo’ is considered a fool; this too is related to the layman in society unable to stand up for his rights.
Artist Sajjad Ahmed’s Nuclear Day Dream II, an edition of five using acrylic and digital print on canvas, depicts a large atomic explosion. According to the artist, his work stems from his association with the decline of images and ideas in this space and time. He suggests whether it’s a “naïve infant growing in to a complex astronaut or a bedside lamp sharing its visual structure with that of a nuclear mushroom cloud, the startand end point is shared as one.”
Salman Hassan draws inspiration from some of Pakistan’s notable leading writers and poets and from intellectual thinkers around the world as well as from history itself. He uses mixed media on paper, creating similar visuals incorporating text, fish heads and ants. The work is covered in controlled splashes of red. His work narrates a struggle, both personal and otherwise.
Shoaib Mehmood’s work navigates between history and current trends; his work features Mughal miniatures and shadows of army personnel. He subtly implies the influence of the west and the hold it has over eastern traditions, depicting a war within our own cultural stance.
Tazeen Qayyum’s piece, Avoid contact with eyes and skin II, III (Diptych) which is opaque watercolor on hot press illustration board, is one of the most recent works on display. Qayyum’s use of the cockroach in her work remains evident and is explained by Zarmeene Shah’s curatorial note based on Qayyum’s solo show ’(IN) SURGE (NT)’. Shah says “The metaphor of the cockroach entered Qayyum’s work in 2002, addressing issues of human rights violations and the value assigned to human life, and has since evolved and expanded, encompassing notions of the shifting roles between aggressor and victim, of perceived threats and real threats.”
The show also features work by Shakil Saigol and Nizakat Ali Depar. ‘Nishaana’ offers a look back into some very interesting pieces of work, allowing the viewer to approach the visuals from a different perspective and in in context with one another.
‘Nishaana’ ran at Canvas Gallery, Karachi, from 9-23 June 2015. Images courtesy Canvas Gallery