Looking to expand on their ongoing artistic interests, and outlook on societal concerns in general, a group of five young artists came together for a show titled ‘Maidan’ at Studio Seven Gallery. The show opened in Karachi on 23rd April, 2019.
One of the three painters exhibiting in the show was Anusha Ramchand. Ramchand’s portraits titled ‘Can you? Can you tell me who I am?’ depict a sombre palette, with a female figure standing front-facing on one canvas, and standing in profile on the second canvas. Possibly made to resemble identification photographs for official documents, and possibly also self-portraits, Ramchand’s paintings speak about struggling to understand her identity as a Hindu-minority in a Muslim-majority in Pakistan. Being a Hindu, Ramchand expresses her unease with social hierarchies and stigmas based on religion, hoping to erase them by bringing up these concerns through her work. She also presents a figure drawing in ink, as well as a screen print of passport sized photographs repeated to look fading in and out.
The other two painters presenting were Maham Nadeem and Mariam Ansari. Nadeem’s paintings use a pop art aesthetic, relevant to her theme depicting the rise of superficiality in consumerism. Her oil on canvas pieces showcase a bright green background, aptly using the image of a crown made out of paper. Often found at party product stores, the glittery crown is recreated on canvas through goldleaf. A kitschy portrait of a female figure wearing said paper crown with her tongue sticking out, the tongue being the same green colour as the background, pointed out the idea of consumption further, using the crown to symbolise and criticise the sense of entitlement and lust for material things she sees in her generation. Unlike Nadeem’s vivd, bright canvases, Ansari’s paintings create an almost gloomy atmosphere, depicting nature in a eerie manner. About her work, she says: “There are some moments, like the calming scent of the earth after the rain has refreshed it, or the grandness of the mountains standing so beautifully before you, that your eyes can not believe them.” Her oil and enamel works, merged with goldleaf, use ambiguous imagery of mountains, sea foam, etc. to depict moments of disconnecting with the world, and reconnecting with the self. Hues of dark green and blue in shadowy forms create a sullen, hushed ambiance, perfectly capturing the nuances of the ‘effort to connect with the core’.
Also working with patterns in nature was Hassaan Aslam. Continuing his practice from his 2018 thesis, Aslam plays with light and shadow through sculpture. Carving MDF wood through laser cutting, he recreates the organic form of trees in an abstract manner. Although working with unconventional designs, Aslam manages to retain the essence of the subject, using the play of light and shadows to replicate the shade of an actual tree. Aslam was the only artist in the show displaying a sculptural body of work.
Lastly, Nadeem Alkarimie presents a series of photographs. Primarily a series of portraits, Alkarimie’s work is a collection of images captured during his travels across Pakistan and different countries. Showcasing both colour and black and white photographs, each one emphasises on the presence of a human figure. Several closeups of portraits depict smiling children and adults, all of them with bright, expressive eyes. Other photographs are taken from a distance, depicting a figure on a bridge, engaging with a rural landscape, and a black and white image of two figures sitting in smoke. The stand-out image in Alkarimie’s body of work remains the photograph of two lively children jumping on a hill, against the backdrop of a clear, cerulean sky, encompassing his main theme of exploring human behaviours and expressions.
Each artist worked with their own specific theme, using different mediums ranging from painting, photography, printmaking and sculpture. The exhibition aimed to bring to light social and cultural concerns through individual reflection and perspectives.
Note: This group show is not to be confused for the group show with the same name, titled ‘Maidaan’, which opened at Koel Gallery on 4th June, 2018.