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The offerings of summertime can be the beginning of a romance, blossoming and joyous but bright blue skies can be accompanied by greying clouds, heavy with melancholia, the noise of hustle-bustle, and the impending melting pot of the metropolis Karachi. The exhibition titled “Summerscape” taking place at Koel Gallery has 33 artists on display with works in painting, drawing, sculpture, print and photography. The artists include Abdul Muhammad, Abid Aslam, Alyssa Sakina Mumtaz, Amean J., Anushka Rustomji, Arshad Faruqui, Ayesha Naveed, Ayesha Shariff, Ayesha Siddiqui, Babar Gull, David Alesworth, Farrukh Adnan, Furhan Hussain. Haider Ali Naqvi, Haya Faruqui, Hira Khan, Irfan A. Qureshi, Irfan Gul Dahri, Jaffer Hasan, Laila Rahman, Marjan Baniasadi, Maryam Baniasadi, Masood A. Khan, Mina Arham, Moeen Faruqi, Mohsin Shafi, Momin Zafar, Nabahat Lotia, Nurayah Nabi, Rabeya Jalil, Rabia Ali, Shanzay Subzwari and Sohail Zuberi. 


The viewer is instantly drawn into Shafi’s “Tall Tales” as the panoramic views show a mix of interiors and exteriors converging into one long alleyway depicting whimsy and playful collages of people. These familiar scenes look urban but when examining closely are intricately placed within groups of people interacting with each other and their environments. These overlapping visual narratives, curiosities and objects are staged theatrical to be parodic and macabre. On the other spectrum are the black and white photographs of Zuberi capturing the vacant expressions of fishermen at the shore littered with decaying debris. The visual clutter and busy backgrounds that the artists are capturing have very particular protagonists placed inside a desolated environment filled with dread.  


Dainty well kept foliage is an emblem of a picturesque summer habitat. “Resurgence” is a precisely rendered miniature painting by Baniasadi that has two uniquely shaped branches with luscious leafy green heads. These two paintings have a portraiture format with a body and head posed next to each other in a diptych. Similarly, Lotia’s sculpture is titled “Poppy is also a flower” where she purposely uses geometric shapes of circles, spheres and triangles to create a more naturalistic portrait of a poppy pushing the viewer to use their imagination to replace the ceramic material with the memory of weightless poppy flower. 


The busy neighbourhoods in Arham’s drawings “Becoming Historic Homes’ and “Reading Symbols” are transiently showing the fragility of these structures seen in only line and paper. The weathering of the facade captures the time and history of windows, doors and streets. The weightlessness of the paper and the quick pen work capturing a fleeting and fading space in motion. The metal structure created by Khan called “Mauripur Rd., “Water Tanks & Withdrawals” in comparison looks heavy and immovable but the broken ladder attached to it tells a story of a broken-down construction site and a neglected neighbourhood.


We traversed through neighbourhoods, gardens and mapped the streets of the city which are depicted in various artworks in the exhibition. Looking closer into these said environments the works of Rustomji using Indian Ink and acrylics on handmade paper, poetically capturing the movement of water in motion. These soothing and romantic paintings are in the form of a triptych that at first looks like a gathering of clouds, smoke, or waves crashing on the shore. A scenic and soothing movement of form and line that relaxes the viewer. The oceanic mood of Rustomji is explored allegorically in Khan’s painting titled “Mangrove Seed the Last Hope” where two dolphins are swimming in crystal blue waters under a sleeping baby on a floating leaf. A scene that shows harmony between water and the earth. 


Beyond human representation and figuration are the more psychological works of Amean J. titled “I SEE WHAT I SEE. WHAT DO YOU SEE? Frames of Mind” are a series of photographs taken in Karachi of heavy rain clouds coming into formation. The translucent tones of grey feel heavy and overwhelming at first but start to feel painterly and plasmic. The heavy coats of colourful enamel paint in Ali’s paintings create Rorschach-like images inviting the viewer into a dialogue to interpret the forms through their unique lens. The movement, straining and layering forms in Siddiqui’s paintings have large and minute details that create a strange optical tension. All three artists are playing with the idea of weight, light and movement keeping their compositions open to multiple interpretations and readings by the viewer. 


The fibrous quality of Baniasadi’s paintings of carpets inlaid with cultural motifs highlights the dexterity of the handcrafted weave. She is recreating the experience intimately as if telling the story of each motif coming together to create her painted tapestries. The minimalist linework of Gull has a delicate weave of its own that he has created using the simple technique of pen and ink but the result is a complex doubled image of a grid that feels like a handwoven silk cloth layered with a gradient of colours.  


The turning of a season is marked with transformations, as the weather is in transition so are we carrying forward and exploring ourselves more deeply over time. The powerful work of Rahman titled “Wahdat, Ummat, Meeras, Khilwat” is a reminder of our collective spirituality and shared history, she is direct and concise in her declaration of a singular identity etched into an immortalised seal. The ability to create modern works of works of art that can exist simultaneously in a classical era from centuries ago is the mastery of Qureshi’s miniature pieces. 


“Summerscape” is a collection of diverse artists expressing their ephemeral explorations through their studio practice. Each artist has been developing ideas that encapsulate their reality, environment and technique that references personal experiences, history and psychology. The exhibition will continue at The Koel Gallery till July 9th 2021