Although Rawalpindi National College of Arts is young in its inception but it is fast maturing and catching up to the mainstream art scene of Pakistan . Intact it is now playing a major role in being an ambassador of Pakistani art globally. The degree show of 2018 fine arts department clearly narrated how well rounded the graduating class was in reference conception, comprehension and execution of new and novel ideas. The work was refreshing as it was mature. The artists used elements of kitsch, naive art, fauvism, surrealism, humor , caricatures and animations in creative and new ways. i have shared in my article distinctive works along with some personal favorites.
Areej Ahmed received a distinction in Painting and the title of her work was “The End of Innocence” She had used naive art or in other words child like drawing to express a social issue. She maintains “i have painted stories and memories from my childhood to help children to learn to speak up when something abusive happens to them. Be it sexual or mental abuse. With each painting is a story of my childhood occurrences that effected me deeply.” Example of one painting which depicts a dark room with children in it is about how a trusted steward fondled the artist while they were playing in a dark room. Another depicts the artist being stark naked in a public place. This is the artists recurrent childhood nightmare. Areej’s work is was not only conceptually sophisticated but the visual language she used of childlike drawing was executed superbly. The canvas was aesthetically pleasing along with conveying a very dark theme in an effective manner.
Nadia Batool received a distinction in the department of miniature.Nadia Batool’s work stood out because of the immaculate sense of composition and an interesting usage of architectural and public space. Her work was painstakingly intricate and the fact that she had used a three dimensional effect to depict the architecture gave her miniatures a sculptural effect. Although her concept was very basic. She had drawn a comparison between the lush green scenery of Islamabad and the dry barren and brown landscape of her hometown Quetta. She maintains “ i have merged both the landscapes together. i have put elements of architecture and landscapes into each other.” One such example is a diptych in which i have placed a typical house in Quetta on a green mountain top of hills in Islamabad and in the the other part i have put a green covering on a barren hill in Quetta.” Her most aesthetically appealing work is how she has merged the architecture of residential areas of both the cities together using the miniature technique and giving it a sculptural form.
Laraib Ahmed received a distinction in the department of painting. Lariab’s work is about dreams being representatives of reality Her work talks about the REM phase of sleep in which human limbs and people are represented as organic form. Her work is surrealist and fauvist in its abstraction. She maintains “we are living in two realities one is the state in which we are living and the other is the dream state. My paintings are channeling that energy. Individual figures are disconnected and emerging from background and blending in it as well. But the images are in harmony.” She adds “My images are about ripples in reality just like when you throw a stone in water it creates ripples in water similarly if one reality is disturbed it creates disturbance in the alternate reality.”
Mah Misha Fatima received a distinction from the department of printmaking. Although the technique she used was simple. it was line etching with watercolors but it sat well with her strips of caricatures. Her body of work was simple caricatures on the life of trees and it is her creative humor that won the hearts of the jurors. She had narrated simple humorous stories with a comic strip effect. One such story was based on the mulberry tree that Van Gogh painted in his last days of asylum. Mah Misha added humor to it by narrating how the grandson of the painted Mulberry was boasting to other tree that Van Gogh painted his ancestor. Another humorous concept was termites experimenting with the painted tree bark whether it was real or not either by tasting it or sending it to their research cell. The termites also send a police force to investigate a murder of threes and the culprits turn out to be college carpenters. Mah Misha’s work was not only creative in her comic style humour but her presentation was mature and aesthetic in its representation.
Maiha Furqan received a distinction in the department of miniature. her work talked about Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Her work stood out because she created a space that compelled an average audience to empathize with the artists predicament due to OCD. One part was video of a girl pulling her hair narrating her urge to pull out different texture of hair. She maintains “ It is an invisible act but the obsession slowly seeps into our life and interferes with daily activities.” Another piece was a panel of triangles with circular braids made out of synthetic hair which was of the same color and texture as the artist’s hair. But the artist had an obsessive need to used 60 strands of hair in all her pieces. She maintains “ i had to do this for my personal sanity although the viewer would never know how many strands of hair are used in each piece.” She further adds “My work is very space oriented as the viewer enters a immaculate white space with his feet and shoes covered so as not to jar the white space with the soiled feet. Hence the viewer is prepared before hand that the artists works generates empathy.”
Afreen Fatima received a distinction in the department of miniature. Her work was well planned and thought out and spoke eloquently of a simple concept.She talks about her work “ My work is on how the only physical thing that you share no matter where one is – is the sky. I am talking about distance and i used sky as my major image.” She had set up a shelf with 580 photographs taken of the sky. Some sent to her by somebody and some she had taken herself.” She had painted miniatures of skies with the bigger paintings showing two skies overlapping and merging into each other. She also set up an installation of a chair and desk with letters the had written for various persons in her life. A video installation was set up with images of two different skies and dialogue between two people living at a distance from each other. Afreen’s work had a strong element of nostalgia and the skies she painted had a vey therapeutic , serene and calming effect.
Other works that i enjoyed were
Maha Zafar who received an honors degree from the department of Printmaking had set up a very sophisticated installation. Her thesis title was “Light of all lights”. Her work was an interplay with lights, pvc sheets and chrome sheets. There were two installation and her concept was self awareness. One was a space of two rooms with pvc sheet and lights. When the light in one room is dim you can see the people on the other side and when the light is high in your room you can see yourself. But even when you can see the other people you can still see yourself. The bench in the area makes people pause and sit down to experience the whole concept.
The second installation is a chrome silver pvc sheet. She adds “ We use silver in divine and glorified images and the color represents the glory inside you and the spotlights are being projected on the sheet and because the folds of the sheet cause waves in your reflection.
There are motors that spin behind the sheet and they cause ripples and vibrations on the sheets and the sound of the motor depicts worldly distractions.” Maha ’s installation was sophisticated and convincing.
Ayat Tanveer received an honors degree in the department of painting. Ayat’s work was titled “My security blanket”. She adds “ Through my personal experience i have noticed that although children find security and comfort from their mothers but if for some reason the mother is removed from their presence they seek comforts from fuzzy toy animals and blankets etc. Even as we grow up we seek comfort in objects. i wanted to use an object in my work that everybody could relate to. A toy from their childhood- and the most common one is a Teddy bear. The texture is inviting and comforting”. She adds i have added cloth patterns and juxtaposed a Teddy bear in front to indicate that although comfort items have negative connotations but infact they have a positive effect on your mental health.
Qurut ul Ain Mushtaq was the only printmaker who was brave enough to stick to the typical technique of printmaking- wood cut to come up with aesthetically appealing images.Her images were linear patterns synchronizing to make obscure portraits. The images emerged and dissipate at the same time. Lines working together to make characteristic portraits. Her work was titled “Patterns of an infinite journey”. She maintains “ My work is the journey of a human being be it up and down or good and bad leaves a pattern. The fact that the human being journey is an infinite process and i have expressed this infinity through continuous line work.”
Numaira Javed is from the department of painting. Her work was nostalgic and had a slight humor to it. It had a happily down the memory lane stance to it. She had depicted image on canvas that is cut out to make the back seat window. She has shown various persons looking out through the car back seat window. She narrates “i love traveling and observing things and i take photographs of every where i travel. I associate the backseat window to my childhood. Hence i am vey sentimentally attached to the backseat. The dusty window with a wiper cleaning it symbolizes how to cleanse ones mind eye and see the beautiful scenery one is surrounded with”
Zainab Ali is another printmaker who had worked out of the box. Her pieces were frames with collage images juxtaposed with nylon wires . Her work had interesting negative stance about how lies severely dominate our lives. ‘She adds “Everything is a fib. Since childhood we are taught lies encouraging false memories fantasies and dreams”. The technique she has used are multiple. From drypoint, collage, casting to nylon weaves. Flowers in the frames narrate how teenagers imagine life to be a bed of flowers which are another form self created lie. In another image she has used lips to represent wagging tongues, faces covered with gold paper represents make up women use to hide their imperfection. Zaineb work had a very candid down to earth feel to it.
Saleha Arif of printmaking made laser cut images on wood to depict the story of coral reefs.”
Coral reefs are living things that grow in a bulk in the sea and when they die they become hard and they transform into bright neon colors. She adds “ i have used an enclosed space because coral reefs grow in enclosed spaces and are camouflaged by fish and plants and the hue of pink neon light i have used to depict not only the neon colors of coral reefs but also because the color pink in many cultures symbolizes a martyred soldier. Similarly in my eyes the coral reefs are like martyred soldier who are dying because of global warming caused by human polluting the earth.
The thesis was refreshing and encouraging. Pindi NCA has come far and it is clear that the focus of the teaching faculty is not only to brush up the skills oft he student but serious effort has been made to make the future artists of Pakistan to think out of the box and and address issues boldly.