As celebrations loomed over Pakistan on its 71st day of Independence, Karachi’s art scene joined the festivities as well. Among the galleries who geared up to celebrate this momentous day was Studio Seven who exhibited an array of artworks from multiple artists under its show titled, ‘Pehchan.’ Each artists took upon themselves the responsibility of representing key elements that make Pakistan what it is. The artists exhibiting were: Aliyah Ashraf, Amna Khan, Asim Javed, Gina Gul, Hadiqa Arshad, Hamad Syed, Jamal Ashiqain and Syed Shuja Ahmed.
The multiplicity in medium made the display quite exciting. Placed in the centre of the room, artist Jamal Ashiqain directed an installation that both intrigued and humbled the viewer. Hung from a metal rod, Ashiqain displayed the preserved document of a man, Tufail Ahmed. This document was the man’s refugee identity card stating his name, birth and address along with a monochromatic self-portrait. There is also mention of Ahmed’s father’s name and those he was required to care for. In the midst of the festivities, Ashiqain blindsides the audience with a dose of the harsh history that went into the country’s creation and the struggle that ensued. While hoping for a prosperous future, one must not forget the journey and sacrifice that the past 71 years have seen.
Jumping to the present, Hadiqa Arshad’s minimalistic pieces depicted day-to-day life. Arshad’s interest in the barred balconies of Karachi ground her work to the city. Initially feeling enveloped in the grilled space as a child, Arshad now looks at the balcony as containing her beloved childhood memories. Each piece is a frontal view of the grill, like the artist and her audience are mere passers-by, intrigued by the mystic of possibilities that lay inside. Titled ‘Thursday’, ‘Friday’ and ‘Saturday’ respectively, the same balcony is painted, each from a different day. ‘Friday’ includes the commonly used string of tiny paper flags attached to the grill; a decoration piece seen in numerous space of the city. Looking at the pieces in unison one realises that the narrative conveyed. Not only does the interest of decorating one’s home disintegrate as one leaves adolescence but also the general love and patriotism towards the country seems to only manifest on the specific day after which its disappears.
Another artist looking at the present-day Karachi is Gina Gul. Pushing the boundaries of two-dimensionality, Gul creates relief-paintings using mixed media to depict various doors and walls around the city. Intrigued by closed doors and possibilities of what may be happening on the other side, the artist reproduced almost hyper-realistic miniature replicas of entrances frequently seen across the city. Living in Pakistan, one understands the constant political strife the country has faced in the past years. Gul’s miniature representations beautifully depicts this; posters, new and old, spray paint and political flags that invade the residential spaces in an attempt for one party to triumph over another. Her attention to detail, form and colour are a marvel to witness and its massively reduced size allows one to draw a different perspective of a common sight.
Syed Shuja Ahmed and Amna Khan presented the cultural side of Pakistan with their work. With a passion of poetry, Khan took inspiration of Allama Iqbal’s masterpiece to produce her miniature paintings. Ahmed delved into the art of origami for his work. Using the specific motif of the Markhor, Pakistan’s National animal, Ahmed folded multiples of the animal from paper printed with cultural patterns from all across Pakistan. These patterns included, Ajrak, Phulkari and the country’s iconic Truck art. Placed together, the work became symbols of cultural diversity and beauty all displayed as equals for the audience.
The gallery also exhibited photographic work for the show. Aliyah Ashraf displayed a set of photographs revolving around Manora Island, taking the audience along with her for the journey as each piece told a story of the space. Hamad Syed showcased his series, ‘Hopeful Flames’ which were comparatively abstract but just as exciting. His work captured elements that were green and juxtaposed them with elements that were white, recreating the country’s flag. Artist Asim Javed produces a unique set of mind warping prints using the imagery of the National flag as well as a portrait of Muhammad Ali Jinnah.
‘Pehchan’ was a heartwarming tribute by these mult-disciplinary artists to their country on its 71st celebration of Independence. It portrayed its beauty, culture but also the strife and hardships one has faced and continues to face. The works act as pieces of encouragement to strive for a better tomorrow