With societies in constant motion and fresher trends hitting the scene ever so frequently, it is an unspoken fact that present day cultural tropes will one day be dated and make way for newer ones. In a recent duo exhibition at Canvas gallery, a discourse arose on the forgotten tales and objects of yesteryear. In this unique display by the gallery, two solo exhibitions were held in tandem to each other with each oeuvre complimenting the other.
Upon entering the space, one is brought in contact with the delectable pieces of Affan Baghpati. A recent graduate with a Master’s degree from Beaconhouse National University, Baghpati has since been producing coalesced sculptures of found objects. His show titled ‘Once Upon a Land’ is a display of amalgamated and distorted trinkets that have been discarded in the age of plastic and mass production. Once widely used and synonymous with households across Pakistan and other parts of South Asia, these beautifully crafted and delicately embellished items have now been cast-off to metal retailers where eventually they are set aside for melting down to their raw material i.e. metal.
Each piece is a capsule of its historic journey; each indentation and carving, each embellishment is a story of what the piece once was, its importance and usage. In turn, the artist adds to its forgotten history through his manipulation of piece, thereby, preserving his own practice in the work as well and making himself a part of the history. The act of searching for vendors and obtaining these discarded items can be seen as a form of, not only preservation of something once loved, but also as a reminiscence of the past. Baghpati’s manipulations produce hybrid objects with notional functionality as a way to make them relevant to today, with the reinvention giving the object new life and new purpose.
As a miniaturist, Baghpati’s skill and understanding of the artistic genre also comes through his sculptural works. The attention to detail, the delicate cut outs of deer and horse and the flattened silhouettes of each carving are all examples of his previous art training. The oeuvre consists of both freestanding sculptures and those that are framed in ornate white frames, which add to the preciousness of the work. There is an air of whimsy that surrounds the artist’s work. By reinventing the objects, Baghpati in turn removes there previous functionality and does it in such a way that one isn’t quite sure what the trinket could be use for other than maybe being displayed as an art piece; cutting through spoons, dibyas and pipes makes them practically useless but at the same time, they become unique, precious and one of a kind.
Alongside, hang Raheela Abro’s paintings titled, ‘White.’ Based on children’s fables that were inspired by the wisdom of Watayo Faqir, a renowned legendary character from Sindh, Abro presented a set of oil paintings. These paintings focused on commonly found objects and animals. These tales were often told to the children of Sindh and were based on Faqir’s philosophy of the God’s relationship with his creatures. Her meticulous paintings are a delight to witness and each narrate different stories. With a knowledge of the inspiration of these works, one cant help but think of these pieces as illustrations to the fables, especially with the use of animals that are quite often key figures in many children’s stories. Each painting houses a significant amount of white, which, according to Abro, signifies the light (Noor) by way of God.
Abro is a trained miniaturist and this come through her oil paintings as well. Though on a comparatively larger scale than her previous works, each piece is attended to with extensive detail and understanding of representation. However, at the same time, the pieces hover in a states of otherworldliness and fantasy as even though each object is identifiable, they have been painted in a surrealistic realm; a space where cherries hang on wires (White 13) and kittens sit on ice (White 4). Each painting is pleasantly inviting but one can’t help but feel like there is more hiding beneath the surface, much like fables that hold more meaning between each line.
The contrast in medium allowed the work to converse with each other and enlighten the audience about different aspects of the past that may have been forgotten. The shows took place from 31st July to 9th August 2018 in Karachi.