Sensory Spices


Sensory Spices

'Sensory Spices' – an apt name for the show on display at My Art World, Islamabad in November. The intent of the exhibit was to gather various schools

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‘Sensory Spices’ – an apt name for the show on display at My Art World, Islamabad in November. The intent of the exhibit was to gather various schools of thought and perspectives under one banner, displaying the diversity present in the Pakistani art scene today, in reference to subject matter, composition and media. The exhibit displayed the works of six young artists, handpicked from all over the country and several different institutions culminating into their individualistic thought processes and creative undertakings, exploring the different flavors present in the contemporary Pakistani art scene.

Rabia Malik, a graduate of National College of Arts, Rawalpindi, shows interest in exploring the different traits that make up an individual. Her work presents the exploration of the self and dissects the multiple layers of individuality. Thus the use of self portraits is an important part of her compositions. The images are an attempt by the artist to bring out the seemingly random innate thoughts out in the open, and thus present them as a complete picture. The various disconnected strands of thought come together as a whole on the canvas.

The images don’t narrate heart-wrenching or grave issues, just what the artist goes through. The product on the canvas could possibly be a surprise to the artist herself as her subconscious rules her creative process. The images are a source for the artist to look into her own thoughts and aspirations. The paintings possess the playful nature of former surrealistic paintings, making them amusing to the eye.

Malik invites us to be a part of her surrealistic world as she tries to determine the line between reality and fantasy. The images seem to have tangible proof of the world we all reside in yet have the oddity or eccentricity of another worldly place. They consist of familiar items such as the floral “dashtar khuan” and the bathroom chappal, yet there is a bizarre quality to the imagery. The ordinary nature of the environment instantly brings to life a scene that is familiar and easy to imagine, yet the apparent “magical realism” makes it anything but regular.

On the other hand, Anuskha Rustomji has built and breathes life into what seems like a microcosmic world. Rustomji’s “fauna” instantly wins one over, with its sophisticated line work, kinetic nature and the contradictory silent nature of the image. The translucence of her illustration grants the image an almost beatific air. The particles seem as frail as bubbles that cease to exist as you try to capture them. The nature of the particles, so delicate and fragile, is almost like something invisible to the naked eye. One feels as if witnessing the scene through an aperture or the lens of a telescope, where life remains undisturbed by the viewer.

The animated nature of the compositions does not disturb the serenity prevalent in the image. You can almost feel the subjects in motion on their individual paths that criss-cross each other, yet there is no disturbance in the overall shape they exist as. In Bloom we can almost see the foliage circling to the centre, like the whirling movement of water before it gushes into the drain.

Delicately structured lines can also be found in Romessa Khan’s work. Khan’s work bears human emotions, sensations and ideals. The work seems to document the breakthroughs and the turning points, the fleeting moments in life; the bereft and the hopeful. Each line is inundated with emotion and passion. The artist has manipulated the line in several different ways. Her images consist of long straight lines, looped ones, curved or even tattered to depict various sentiments.

Khan’s Hanging Gardens seem to possess similar kinetic energy as present in Rustomji’s work . The image seems to be creeping in from the side of the paper as if in transition. The negative spaces possess the same weight as the crowded corner of the prepared surface making Khan’s unconventional compositions that much stronger.

Zoya Manan’s take on self discovery is rather unconventional. Her imagery is based on how she dealt with cerebral palsy. Her aim is to capture the essence of individuals that make up her world; their expressions, gestures, body language. Manan’s world constructed on paper is a more colourful and intriguing world than reality itself; much more whimsical or peculiar.

Saim Ghazi deals with a more impersonal topic. The artist makes use of familiar Mughal-style imagery and manipulates it into silhouettes at his own will. The image seems to be built of a series of dots and dashes, reduced to its basic structure yet revealing all that we need to know about the subjects. The artist’s technique looks more like an intricate cross stitch composition. Yet again he uses merely simple delicate lines to built up his image.

Khalid Soomro brings his own set of ideas to the mix. He explores the concept of identity, personal growth and the struggle of being a part of this world. The artist uses a very direct approach to sending his message across. The images of dolls instantly raise the issues of “identity”. The artist plays with the idea of how the dolls represent the innocence of children or their tendency to be “blank slates”. It talks about individuals who have not yet assumed a distinctive identity or being. The plain stark backdrop of the dolls makes the viewer uneasy, as it feels like the child is falling through an abyss. Soomro highlights the end of innocence as time passes by.

‘Sensory Spices’ ran at My Art World, Islamabad, from 19-27 November 2015. Images courtesy My Art World.

Shameen Arshad is a graduate of the National College of Arts, Lahore. She is an artist, curator as well as a freelance writer for ArtNow and The Missing Slate.



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