“The Autonomous Draughtsman” curated by Aasim Akhtar was displayed at Tanzara Art Gallery, Islamabad and transports the viewer into the process and drawing exploration of each artist. The journey is orchestrated with a delicate understanding of the medium and a purposeful directional sensibility. Much like keys from a piano e forte ‘soft and loud’, the curation creates a symphonic ambiance of black and white paper works. The participating artists are Anas Gauri, Babar Gull, Bilal Khalid, Farrukh Adnan, Huma Iftikhar, Huma Maqbool, Imran Mudassar, Rehana Mangi, and Ramsha Rubbani.
The Tanzara Gallery is a transformable space, the walls of the gallery can hold the weight of large scale and intimately detailed smaller works. The drawings transitions from light to dark creating an orbital movement, there is a conversation between the works parallel and across the room. Huma Ifftikhar’s “Untitled” and Ramsha Rabbani’s “Belonging” hang together on one side of the main hall. These two artists have chosen a black background for their works and yet they are entirely different in their perspective and technique, separated by an open doorway where the works of Gauri whimsically dancing in between them. When placed together these works create a frenetic vibration that is further amplified by the two large scale drawings across them, one titled “Life of Death” and both sized at 147X218 cm by Huma Maqbool. All of the white drawings in the show act as transitions, placed to release the density of their darker counterparts. Bilal Khalid’s work feels ominous on a black surface, his cloud forms are weightless. A fossilisation of microcosms, his mark making reminiscent of a cellular hive decomposing or mummified bodily organs, the work is open to many interpretations. Khalid’s tryptic is teetering between Iftikhar’s works placed on each side, this creates a flickering effect as her fibre thin line work appears and disappears beside Bilal Khalid’s work.
The visceral scape found in Rabbani’s pieces are emotive and otherworldly. The visual experience is psychological and immersive as the painterly washes are then framed with repetitive line making. The compositions are an anthology of the individualised vocabulary Rabbani has developed overtime. This laborious exploration of material is part of her creative process, the result is a harmonious amalgamation of human form and pulsating line as a drawing device. On the complete opposite spectrum, Imran Mudassar’s drawing practices are selecting iconic visuals such as the heart, fly, fighter jets, knights and hand grenades for his compositions. The historicisation of paper through tinted washes enables a cross referencing on war politics that is medieval and modern. The work has delicate line work with dense Rorschach test inkblots. These narratives are interconnected with a time capsule like quality.
Ghauri uses figurative posing adorning the form with lopsided clothing. Eroticising his compositions without the human figure creates an absurd image, this performative element makes his work theatrical. Rehana Mangi uses human hair and animal hair as an obscure drawing medium creating compositions much like aerial views of crop circles in an open field. A macro and micro perspective is a recurring theme in the exhibition. Farrukh Adnan creates a magnetic field of ink in his work, there is an illusionary fluidity in his technique as seen in “Pen + Ink”, “In the Long Run”, “To be about” and “Circle of Money”. The mark making along with purposeful page binding and oval shaped portals have indefinable origins. Ink is fluid, over time the evolution of ink into the digital code creates a paradox between its two states of being, Adnan has meticulous control over this medium but the nature of his work is a wave of pixels, reminding the viewer of television static or satellite photography.
If the show is designed as a solar system, the asteroid would be Babur Gull’s sublime drawings silently searing across the walls of the gallery. This unwavering signal represented as a fine tooth comb line, black on white and white on black, carries an inverted clarity curated to bring the entire exhibition together. Akhtar has telescopically manoeuvred the curation of these 9 artists creating an astronomical alignment within the gallery space. The works are shifting and changing without disruption, they seamlessly glide one after the other over the viewer’s eyes.