Private Mythologies


Private Mythologies

Pakistan’s ten most revolutionary artists are brought together under one roof in an exhibition titled 'Private Mythologies' curated by the eminent art

The Prodigal Son Returns
Seen From Here, There, and Nowhere
Brian Fahlstrom at Reflex Amsterdam  

Pakistan’s ten most revolutionary artists are brought together under one roof in an exhibition titled ‘Private Mythologies’ curated by the eminent art critic Aasim Akhtar. These influential ten artists are not only pioneers of the contemporary art movement in Pakistan, but are an institution onto themselves who not only have patrons of their art but followers and lovers of their ideas and creations. They have paved the way for younger talent nationally and internationally by educating and promoting Pakistani contemporary art for decades. They have also been reforming, restructuring and deconstructing culture, traditions and mythologies as we see in its historic totality.

Salima Hashmi, Naazish Attaullah, Quddus Mirza, Anwar Saeed, Afshar Malik, Mansoora Hassan, Noorjehan Bilgrami, Shireen Kamran, Mehr Afroz, and Nahid Raza are the artists whose works were on display. They have been and still are an integral part of universities such as National College of Arts, Lahore, Beaconhouse National University, Lahore, and Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture, Karachi. What makes this exhibition a unique display and why all the works weave in so meticulously together is because at one point or the other all the artists have been mentors to one another. They have stirred Pakistan art on many various different levels from the 1970s onwards by breaking tradition, altering rigid praxis and culminating an intellectual continuity with past forms and customs. Thus, ‘private’ mythology struggles to remain private when the evocative and often intriguing socio-political stance to the works sits in a contemporary setting speaking to a viewer who feels a radical climate change as she enters the Serena Hotel Islamabad’s Satrang Gallery in October.

“A new kind of stand-in may be on the way to being invented, a decoy that is precariously perched to precipitate the artwork as idea,” says Aasim Akhtar. This can be seen and felt intensely in Mrs. Hashmi’s work, whose ideas resonate in any genre, becoming a timeless masterpiece encompassing the past and the present with a voice that echoes itself into the future. Such timelessness and similar lucidity with yet a certain amount of elusiveness is encountered in Quddus Mirza’s work, where the spatial configuration of colour meets with the precise and the definite strokes of form, creating a profound discourse between the transient mode that tradition always is in and without which it would be otherwise stagnant and redundant.

In Naazish Attaullah’s work, despite the solid black images on a stark white paper bewildering one with thier floating transparency, the sublimity and the mysticism provoked by the imprints transcends the real, the material and the tangible. It is an abstraction of the human body and its relation with its surrounding and the infinite. Another monotone mesmerizing the viewer with its movement, rhythm and harmony on display are Afshar Malik’s Relief Prints. The saturation of colour, the dissipation of hue and the overlapping creating various tones makes one sway to the pulsating beat to the works. Added to another printmaker’s delight is Mansoora Hassan’s mono-print etching/mixed media which is an array of media exploration and expressionistic in view of an intellection between local and the foreign influxes.

A combination of sensitivity with spontaneity intrigues the viewer to dig deep within the image structured by Mehr Afroz. She had scratched off part the silver leaf and blurred other parts with tracing sheet, revealing and concealing text and objects that left an unending lament, a yearning and perhaps a memory that one can vividly see and yet at the same time can fully erase as well. Likewise, NoorJehan Bilgrami’s canvases evoked transformations with diverging and converging grids and perspective, connoting perhaps a rather systematic series of emotions and sensations regenerating and regressing simultaneously.

Aasim Akhtar describes Shireen Kamran’s paintings: “Ranging from spare to sprawling, the process of drawing occupies a central place in Kamran’s production, both as a formal and informal working through of ideas, recording many of her earliest forays at charting emotional space through an abstract language.” She approaches nature with an abstract expressionist’s view.

An alluring palette of love, despair, beauty and enchantment is seen Nahid Raza’s acrylics on paper. She maneuvers her spectators with the charm of her characters painted boldly while delicately concealing them behind the veil of surrealism. Anwar Saeed makes bold statements, and addresses delicate issues in socio-political context mapping a solemn historical repertoire of the circumstances we live in.

The exhibit was an enlightening experience and a sure treat for all those who had been craving to see these senior artists’ paintings on display again. One hopes to see more of such shows and wishes that perhaps we could be lucky to have a few retrospectives of these masters in Pakistan soon, so to be dazzled by the rich art history that Pakistan is in the process of making and is at the very crucial crux of it today.

‘Private Mythologies’ runs at Satrang Gallery, Islamabad, from 7 October – 6 November 2015. Images courtesy Satrang Gallery.

Sana Kazi is an artist and assistant professor at National College of Arts Lahore.


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