“I paint my own reality” – Frida Kahlo
“Self colored”-seems like an apt name for a show that is all about the artists, their aspirations, desires, influences, rants or analysis as the artist’s concerns take centre stage. The exhibition opened on 20th of August at the Shakir Ali Museum. The brick building that has for long housed Shakir Ali’s exquisite pieces, allowed a younger group of artist to share the same space.
The show celebrates individuality prevalent within the art market as it brings together ten artists from different art backgrounds namely Hira Siddiqui, Shameen Arshad, Fariha Rashid, Saif Ali Siddiqui, Idrees Hanif, Hamza Rana, Saad Ahmed, Salman Hunzai, Wasif Afridi and Aamna Kazmi. The eclectic collection is bound together by each artist’s ability to bring forth his/her bold vision and unique style. The group unabashedly put their views forward as they reflect their own lives and in doing so they challenge the viewer in an array of ways. Rana and Hanif put up interactive installations while Arshad makes people think about their inherent nature through text-based paintings; Siddiqui and Kazmi shed light upon the gory events that take place in society while Ahmed talks about living under a microscope.
Hira Siddiqui’s daring attempt to reproduce iconic imagery is commendable. Having been greatly influenced by the opulence and majestic style of classic paintings, Siddiqui paints fragments from famous artworks practicing the artist’s freedom to the fullest. By combining these images on one surface the artist reduces the gravity attached to them which might be considered by some aesthetes as distasteful. However, such an action though responsible for reducing their grandeur, makes the work more approachable.
Ancient Greek sculptures also serve as a basis for Hunzai’s breath-taking Miniatures as he draws analogies between inner and external conflicts. The artist illustrates portraits of some of the great warriors in the past to show battles that he has won against himself. It is interesting to see how the artist has captured such masculine energy through delicate imagery. His imitation of Bernini’s The Rape of Persephone made many stop in their path. Despite the change in the medium, the feel of the silky nudes was retained. One can almost feel the skin; the tight grasp of the male figure. The translucent layering of paint gives his images an ethereal quality, retaining the dignity of his characters and imagery despite its reduced scale.
Placed next to these Miniatures are Arshad’s canvases that stand in complete contrast to Hunzai’s conventional methods. Using text as her main motif, Arshad has created layers of imagery, which like our experience of writing – was in black and white. Her fascination with language, as a means to make paintings was explained by her: “ When cave paintings and images weren’t enough to communicate man came up with language. Thus, the text’s basic purpose is to inform-communicate. But what happens when text is slightly tampered with? I play with text on canvas slightly manipulating the order or form of the text, hence making it less comprehensible. My aim is to break down words in such a way so that a person has to struggle to read an entire statement, a struggle that might end up being futile. I want to document the sentiment that it evokes- how a disturbance in something so common and seen everyday can irk the viewer.”
In some sense the unreadily feature of her work enhance that aspect of frustration, because a person could see the words yet could not comprehend them. However the visual paly of medium and forms captivated a spectator, as was the case in the works of Hanif, who creates wood sculptures by replicating everyday objects that hold emotional significance in his life. In this particular show he displayed a bicycle made entirely of wood. Though the idea behind the work was unclear, many viewers gravitated towards it due to the labor intensive and magnificent technique itself. The artist has also collaborated with Hamza Rana to produce the installation “one that allows them to remember everything’’ which sounds good in theory but did not appeal much to the eye.
Afridi uses wood as the surface for his illustrations. The artist’s ability and control over his technique is visible in “Untitled 1” as it stood out from the rest. Afridi explores the idea of discrimination and passing unfair judgment, with a tinge of humor that acts as a relief from the melancholic tone of other artworks on display. Assuming a more somber tone, Ali Siddiqui and Kazmi, talk about atrocities that take place in society, infecting the lives of all residing within it. The sentiments of the artist’s though concurrent are conceived through dissimilar visual vocabulary. As these two artists comment on the world around them, Rashid talks about battling her inner demons. Her images emerge from the need to expel all negative energies. Rashid’s artwork, compared to Hunzai’s visuals, seem more obscure due to the use of symbology that the audience is not entirely acquainted with. Thus, the open ended nature of her work makes her intimate imagery more relatable.
On the far end of the gallery one witnesses Ahmed’s monochromatic prints. The enigmatic images have the ability to pull the viewer in as they depict our everyday life in an unfamiliar light. His figures don’t look entirely human but rather celestial bodies. The artist transforms ordinary scenes into mysterious settings where a friendly gathering like Can you see anything? no longer looks like a conventional get together. The image generates curiosity and excitement as the viewer feels there is something that they are missing out on.
The show brought together works that did not aim to impress but were mainly created for self expression. The artists without levying upon themselves the weight of public expectation produce exciting and unconventional artworks without restrictions on size, medium or technique.