This year marks the 10th anniversary of Satrang Gallery located at the Serena Hotel, Islamabad. Founder Director, Asma Rashid Khan has showcased over 500 artists, and initiated a curatorial traineeship programme that has mentored 20 young curators over the decade. The anniversary exhibition celebrates the long-term relationships that have been established between the gallery and 50 of artists that have been chosen by curator Zahra Khan and a panel of assistant curators that have been and are currently associated with Satrang Gallery.
Pakistani contemporary art has evolved into an inclusive, multicultural and interdisciplinary discourse over the years that offer audiences unique perspectives on identity, personal experiences, materiality, history and environment through the lens of the artist. Their studio practice creates moments of deep introspection for the viewer along with providing an opportunity to closely examine Pakistani art. The large figurative painting by Amra Khan, titled ‘Shehzaadi’, is placed at the centre of Qadri Jhatial’s 12 part series, called ‘Land-scape’. The figure, casually lounging on a bright blue armchair, gazes back at the viewer welcoming them into an intimate space captured by the artist in the form of a cosy boudoir. Jhatial’s paintings offer a psychological transition from interior to exterior space echoed in the form of various colour compositions.
Creating an environment with motifs of emotional language, Natasha Jozi uses hands embracing as a form of dialogue in her video performance, titled ‘The way you touch me’. The moment of colour where the hands begin to rub pigment onto each other sparks a visual intervention similar to Faizan Naveed’s ‘Oh Look, A Triangle – 8’ where he has layered translucent cobalt blue geometric shapes over a majestic black and white landscape photograph of snow peaks. Artists are immersed in a practice of creating otherworldly spaces as seen in Sara Pagganwala’s ‘Bi83- I’ sculpture grown using bismuth, granite and metal. The monumentalising of a moment can come in the form of a miniature tribute, like ‘1990’ by Zahra Asim, who has painted a picturesque cycle inclined by a wall on a metal postcard encased in a metal envelope.
Similarly, Nazir Hunzair’s sculptural tablet appears to be fossilised with impressions of prehistoric forms that are household objects, with which the artist momentarily transports us back in time.
The stream of consciousness can be home to a complex labyrinth of moments that the artist Mohsin Shafi populates his raw silk and jamawar tapestry, titled ‘Cheers Darlin’ I’ — with figurative chapters collectively engaged in multiple storylines. The clusters of figures, objects, interior spaces and tableaux create their visual neighbourhood. Poetry and folklore can become references and inspiration for artists, who choose to interpret symbolism as their narrative.
Their presence in the art scene encourages emerging artists to take risks and continue to believe in their art. Artists who have worked with the gallery have gone on to pursue exhibitions on the international stage.
Aakif Suri in ‘Lord II’ has created a dual portrait of a man joined with a camel. It appears to be an animal headdress at first but the detailed life-like features of the camel begin to reverse our initial impression. The viewer starts to question who is wearing whom in this composition, perhaps this is a portrait of a man possessed by the spirit of a desert camel or vice versa.
Artists have captured the imagination of the viewer through their deliberate use of distortion of reality by skewing perspective, and focal points, choosing to engage in cinematic storytelling of their personal life. In the painting, ‘The Garden of Grief’, Natasha Malik maps out an entire timeline of events for the viewer. She invites them to explore moments, places and subjects that are open to interpretation. The viewer takes on the challenge to enter into the emotional landscape of the artist to understand their deep attachments and personal history.
Artist Sehyr Sayed has previously worked with Satrang Gallery as an assistant curator. She has encased a delicate object in ‘Memories of Shelter III’, choosing a transparent box to allow the viewer access to her personal experience. The object starts to feel alive as the detailing, colour and shape begin to feel familiar and organic.
Each artist in the show presents individualised themes, masterful techniques and conceptual realness through their dedicated studio practice. The wide range of mediums on display at Satrang Gallery includes print, animation, photography and sculpture. The show passionately supports the promotion and celebration of contemporary art in Pakistan. Their presence in the art scene encourages emerging artists to take risks and continue to believe in their art. Artists who have worked with the gallery have gone on to pursue exhibitions on the international stage.
The viewership of the gallery includes visitors to the Serena Hotel, foreign diplomats and dignitaries along with art lovers from all over the country. Their efforts to bring together, and build an inclusive community for artists, shine a bright light on Pakistani art.