It is heartening to see the number of galleries featuring the work of young, emerging artists. “Hot off the Press”, which was recently shown at Gallery Full Circle, Karachi, is one such exhibition. It gives us a look at the work of five artists who have recently graduated from IVS. These artists, Abeer Arshad, Ana Ali Kazmi, Jaweria Shoaib, Schanza Khan and Yusra Taqi Allawla have expressed their concern in their thought-provoking work about societal trends today, and their reactions to these.
Considering much of the news that we see and hear through various media, there is genuine cause for concern and apprehension. Where is the “big, wide, wonderful world” that my father used to talk about, and where we lived such carefree lives? The eternal mountains, the ever\flowing rivers, the immense green forests – what have we done to them? Where have they gone? And why are scientists scanning the universe for other inhabitable planets?
Abeer Arshad has worked in various mediums – drawing, installations, new media art, printmaking, painting and sculpture. “My work”, she says, “is based on the rise of pollution, causing a lot of distress not only to humankind but to all nature around us. There is no way for the environment to recover in time and to keep performing well in the future.” To all this and more we cannot but agree. Abeer shows her sculptural tendency in the use of metal bottle caps, which are one of the elements of pollution, and from these she creates shrubs and plants, “which look pretty now, but in reality are (helping to) take over nature.”
Her piece titled “Fool’s Paradise No. 5” shows clearly how pollutants and trash have taken over the environment. What’s more, there’s a feeling of haste in this picture, echoing her statement that, “there is no way for the environment to recover in time and function properly in the future.” Indeed, these bottle tops are traveling at speed and at random, filling the environment except for little spaces here and there.
We cannot but admire Jaweria Shoaib’s skill in the use of monochrome
One of the greatest concerns of today is rapid climate change, due to the mindless misuse of the planet. This is also reflected in Arshad’s work. This artist believes, as so many of us do, that the greenhouse effect is a major cause of distress today. Yet as we know to our dismay, there are heads of state who refuse to sign agreements intended to reduce this effect.
Similarly, Jaweria Shoaib compels the viewer to think about our shortcomings as a society. Her take on our desensitized and forgetful attitude to significant and tragic events that have shaken the core of Pakistani society is poignant. Some of her work stems from the APS Peshawar attack, where she investigates the post-trauma of the school shooting. In particular, she is concerned about missing and brutally maltreated children, to put it mildly, also the atrocities that come one after another. And she asks, “What do we truly remember? We remember the blood, the lifeless bodies( that are reported in our newspapers). But do we really remember the presence of those lives? The presence that embodied laughter, whooshing swings and excitement? Today, playgrounds echo not with laughter but with silence.” This is verified by her touching monochrome piece (charcoal on canvas) called “Tapping Back in Memory,” where a broken swing hangs forlorn and lonely in colourless surroundings. No human or animal presence, no screams of excitement. Just the broken swing and a faint glimmer of fading sunlight in this empty place. We cannot but admire the artist’s skill in the use of monochrome, which includes the use of shading, an important feature of the grey environment that she has produced.
Also favouring grey in her work is Ana Ali Kazmi, who tells us, “My work explores visuals taken from market places. I feel anxious and apprehensive when visiting these sites, but through my work I have figured out that the reason for my anxiety is the chaos created through human interaction.” Perhaps this is one of the results of overpopulation and widespread disregard for its results. Like so many artists for generations, Ana wishes to see a better society, where peace of mind and tranquility replace anxiety. This brings to mind the sages of old and the many people today who embrace solitude voluntarily to find peace and beauty. The herm dwells in the wilderness and the Buddhist monks spend months or years meditating alone in caves. Yet these practices are motivated by love and compassion as the basis of a better world, or perhaps by the desire to reach Nirvana. As time goes by, no doubt Ana’s work will show the beauty and tranquility she seeks, in a better world.
As mentioned, several of her graphite-on-paper pieces are in various shades of grey, while interestingly some are in sepia with its classical touch. As to grey, her narrow panel “Eik Taweel Safar” is eye-catching in its slightly off-centre placement of a structure in need of repair. The paint is peeling, beams have fallen somewhat out of place, while the staircase, the main feature of the composition, leads up into a dark and mysterious interior. How long must one creep hesitantly upwards through the spooky darkness to find a place with the beauty and tranquility that the artist seeks? Is it, indeed, to be found there?
Colourful, happy – a “must see,” brilliant splash of colour across the canvas, with several elements made into a new whole. This is Yusra Taqi Allawala’s “A Walk in the Vines.” Reading contemporary romance novels, she escapes from reality into a fictional dreamscape, and from this, coupled with her innate talent is born her art. Thus the imagery and surroundings depicted in the novels are a significant part of the narrative. First in this composition we see two neat rows of vines, topped by an actual vinery, this leading into gently undulating green fields. Then follow the sea, the cliffs, the silhouette of the land beneath the brilliant red sunset that hovers over all. However,while in general her colourful work is outstanding among the mainly sombre pictures in the exhibition, her desire to escape from reality, from an unsatisfactory world, gives her something in common with her fellow artists.
Then comes Schanza Khan, currently doing her Masters at Maastricht in the Netherlands. Her life has been full of variety – regarding, with her lively curiosity all that she encountered when traveling widely and learning to adapt quickly to new situations. Much of her work is based on “the transmutation of digital surveillance imagery.” Through this she presents some interesting action, such as in the diptych titled “Blue Footage,” where she has employed CCTV-type images showing shady characters and security men. However, her oil-on-canvas expressionist piece titled “Remnant” really sets the imagination whirling. In fact, it is usual for the expressionist artist to distort things radically in order to evoke moods or ideas. As to ideas, this picture conjures up, one may say, a fascinating contrast, with softly coloured clouds surrounding a black witch, encumbered by a heavy backpack and pursued by a creature with the hooves of a horse and the beak of a puffin. This creature, though wingless, is a little like the hippogriff (horse-griffin) that appears here and there in the Harry Potter series. Meanwhile, two male onlookers in white and a female observer in black sit at the sidelines, the hand-to-hand touch between the witch and one of the onlookers being quite electric. What has inspired the artist to produce such a fantastic piece? It adds a highly individual touch to an exhibition where the majority of the work displays the personal interests and insecurities of the individual,and the overriding concern of the artists for the environment and for society as a whole.