An exhibition was held at the Satrang Art gallery on March 2019, titled “To the coffee cave” and displayed a collaboration of works by Amna Hashmi and Luis Felipe K. Bigatto. Both artists worked in unison to create art, which was creative, unusual, and a paradox of whim and poignancy. Both displayed a deep understanding of artistic skill and technical know how of software programming. Hashmi, a visual artist and Bigatto, a software programmer from Brazil produced an amalgamation of creativity that is rarely witnessed. Art has greatly advanced from painting to technical and digital prowess; performance art and installations involve a complete visual, tactile, auditory and a completely sense experience. To a great degree traditional skill has been left in the past.
Artists also venture on to ambitious concepts, which cover social, political and moral spheres. Hashmi and Bigatto, however, are among the few artists that explore mundanity and deal with something as simple as enjoying a cup of hot coffee with a loved one. Their collaboration explores the search for coffee, which leads one through small but important lessons in life and also understanding the relevance of the phrase “you reap what you sow”. What is special about this exhibition is that the paintings, done in a traditional watercolour gouache technique on cotton rags, are a narrative shown prior to a video game, which, the viewer is then lured to. The video game as Hashmi explains, is a superior form of art as it engages most of the senses. “ The video game is actually like the old novels, where the viewer chose his own path through the story. These novels were the traditional ‘choose your own adventure’ stories in which one could pick their own narrative and make their own ending. Hence, what is special about the duos work are that they dealt with a beautiful amalgamation of paint and digital technology, while conceptually sticking to a seemingly simple ethos.
The story revolves around two characters, Luc and Lularum, a young girl and boy and how their kitchen pantry was suddenly out of coffee. Lularum, a coffee lover is devastated and goes out in search for an everlasting cup of hot coffee. Luc, in turn, goes out in search for Lularum, who has now disappeared. The paintings narrated Lularum’s disappearance and the viewer is given the choice of whether Luc goes out in search of his partner or decides to do nothing. If the viewer decided that Luc does nothing, the viewer is then led to a series of paintings in which, Luc is enveloped in a mysterious fog and comes across Lularum in a mirror holding an everlasting cup of hot coffee. If the viewer decides that Luc should go in search for Lularum, the viewer is led to the video game. The video game is an adventure of Lularum’s search for the everlasting cup of hot coffee in the coffee cave. She goes through many obstacles and the viewer decides the ending. The endings are all emotional and occasionally sad and lonely. In one ending Lularum gives up her search for coffee to be reunited with Luc. In another, she chooses to go to a cafe for a cup of coffee and her search for true happiness is abandoned for convenient shortcuts. One ending is which Lularum gets the everlasting cup of hot coffee but is seen drinking it alone without her partner Luc; an incompletion of happiness of acquiring a material thing without a presence of a loved one.
The making of the game was all carried out by Bigatti; he used a device called ‘Makey Makey’ to connect the user interface to the game. The animation in the video game was made with Medibang, a painting software used by Hashmi. In total Hashmi created 14-18 animations on Medibang and 18 individual paintings.
An important and characteristic aspect of Hashmi’s gouache paintings is that they were inspired by Anime and Manga art. “My previous miniature paintings were often an amalgamation of Anime and Persian miniature. The artists in the Persian karkhana received their tutelage from Chinese watercolorists and Japanese Ukiyo-e. The Persians and Japanese studied under Chinese tutelage and the history of Anime and Manga comes from Ukiyo-e.”
Ukiyo-e is a genre of Japanese art, which flourished from the 17th to 19th centuries. Its artists produced woodblock prints and paintings subjects such as, women, kabuki actors and sumo wrestlers, scenes from history and folk tales, travel scenes and landscapes, flora and fauna and erotica. The word Manga comes from the word ‘disposable’ or literally, consumed and thrown and is therefore, in opposition to miniature, which were preserved in the manuscripts of the kings court. Hashmi added, “I also chose miniature as my artistic expression because of its narrative and storytelling quality. All the manuscripts like Shahnama, Badshahnama and Hamzanama narrated tales about the emperors’ courts. I enjoy telling stories through my paintings and I also enjoy developing imaginary characters within these narratives.”
Hashmi’s work is a reflection of who she is and the work comes out of a genuine love for what she does. Her characters are illustrative and are placed before comforting backdrops. Her characters are a reflection of the artist’s personality; whimsical, innocent and otherworldly. Her characters share in her uniqueness; a person different from the rest.
The duos art appeared as a genuine expression of who they are. There is no pretence of being idiosyncratic. Bigatto shows an aesthetic sensibility and appreciation of art; he solely carried out the compositions of the artworks without any formal education in visual art.
Hashmi is a visual artist who graduated from the National College of Arts, Lahore in the department of miniature and is currently teaching illustration and thesis research at COMSATS Islamabad. Bigatto is a system analyst who graduated from Faculdade De Tecnologia, Sao Paulo Brazil, in Software Engineering.