I have come to ask myself many a times about the purpose, and more importantly, the importance of art within a society. In fact, finding my creat
I have come to ask myself many a times about the purpose, and more importantly, the importance of art within a society. In fact, finding my creativity when the world seems to be collapsing around me has left me feeling defeated on more than a few occasions. But then you view and experience a show like “Other Beings”, and it rewires your brain, reminding you of the impact that art can have on the viewer, and resultantly the society at large. If nothing else, this show at Numaish Gah, curated by Irfan Gul Dahri, grounds you in the simple act of being human. The dichotomy of social identity, the concept of “otherness”, is both personal and political, private and public, is probably as old as time, and continues to evolve. The show, which displays the works of five artists, successfully covers different aspects of this concept, and subtly engages the viewer in asking important questions. The artists of the show included Imran Gul, Jawad Jan, Abdullah Ali, Fatima Kaleem and Arghawan Hatif. Each artist has a very distinct style of work that added to the whole theme of the show.
Hatif’s work, who is an emerging artist from Quetta, is whimsical and playful. Consisting of portraits that feature young children, they captivate the feeling of childlike wonder and nostalgia that we all yearn for in our adult lives. We can see that the background is purposefully drawn in a childish way whereas the children, the main subjects of the paintings are drawn in a much more photorealistic manner. It seems as if the artist is hinting at the philosophy that the only real thing in our minds is ourselves. This is especially true in childhood when children build their identities based on the otherness of the world around them and how they perceive it which connects to the theme of the show. Her titles focus on the main colors of each painting, derived from the outfit of the subjects.
Abdullah Ali, a contemporary artist from Karachi, also plays with colors and textures in his paintings although in a realistic manner. His work features a unique and colorful sense of bleakness with the colors of the subject in each painting popping out from the background. In his work titled “Altruist”, he has seamlessly blended together different colors, textures and patterns to create a truly awe-inspiring artwork. The different shades of blue imbue the painting with a sense of melancholy which is further cemented by the subject facing the wall rather than staring at the viewer. There is a sense of transparency within the drawing as he plays with the sheerness of the fabric and the light and shadow that fall on it. All of his works feature a sense of depth through masterful brush strokes and attention to detail.
Similarly, Imran Gul captures detail of the mundane life through his brilliant use of the simplest tool, the humble pencil. Featuring ordinary men on a blank white background, he highlights themes of alienation that people within society feel amongst themselves. The lack of background and the use of black and white represent a sense of disconnect and otherness. He seems to have captured simple moments in time and materialized them on paper through these hyper realistic portraits. His attention to detail is truly uncanny as he has truly captured every single fiber of the subject.
Jawad Jan also explores the ordinary people; however, his paintings have a more surrealist quality to them. He has painted his subjects realistically while superimposing vibrant colors and textures in his paintings. What is interesting is that parts of these subjects either seem to be missing or are cut out. All of his subjects are in distinct poses and seem rather intentional in contrast to the portraits we viewed in Imran Gul’s work. The textural silhouettes along with the missing parts of the subjects portray the absence of the self, such as in one of his works (untitled 15), the silhouette which seems to be made of green fishnet fills in the incomplete parts of the subject.
Fatima Kaleem’s duo-tone prints feature abstract feminine figures. The absence of their mouths portrays a sense of uncanniness and alienation. These figures have an inherent feeling of otherness and somberness to them due to the emotions shown by their eyes. Overall, her distinct style and the way she has drawn these figures also seem to be a feminist comment.
Overall, the show was very successful, the work of all the artists is very distinct and perfectly encapsulates the theme of the show. Their work being so drastically different from one another while still discussing the same theme can also be considered a subtle nod to the theme of otherness seeing as each artist interprets the theme itself in a different manner. This is the success of the curator who has brought together such a wonderful show.