Imran Qureshi and Aisha Khalid’s work has been widely displayed, nurtured and cherished all over the globe, but to hear the artists speak about their personal journey and the transition from 1995 to the present day was an experience that left an everlasting impression on the hearts of all those who “seek,” and possibly gave an answer to all those who question the various dogmas that the two artists probe ever so relentlessly through their work.
The talk included some emotional and heart-wrenching incidents around which their art practice revolves. From the killing of two boys in Sialkot by a mob in 2010, to the APS Peshawar terrorist attack in 2015, all the way to the First World War, British colonisation and the dark side of the industrial revolution – and including even some very personal family tragedies and experiences – the two artists in an hour and a half bewildered the audience with the power, scope and breadth of their work.
The audience was encouraged to think of the ultimate concept of love in Sufi ideology through this event
Khalid spoke about the appearance of a figure in her practice, such as in “Conversations, 2002,” “Patterns to follow, 1999” to the disappearance of it, prevalent in her famous Veil Series. She also spoke of the emergence of geometric patterns and floral motifs in works such as “Larger than Life, 2012,” “name, class, subject, 2009.” and some optical illusions with geometry and colour in paintings“Container and the Contained,2011”and the “At the circle’s centre,2017.” She displayed her passion for textiles and large tapestries in a carpet format, along with her particular colour symbolism.
Qureshi explained his stance on colour, motif, space and situations through landscapes and architectural formations. His use of the various colour codes in different locations such as green in Truro Cathedral, UK; black for the 14-18 NOW: WW1 Centenary Art Commissions, Bradford; and blue at the Kunsten Museum of Modern Art in Denmark; to the colour red, his signature.
Furthermore he spoke about the idea of a landscape with his large canvases and how it is linked to the traditional miniature painting and its development in the contemporary context. Qureshi alters common aspects in traditional painting such as dark to light, producing some awe-inspiring works – with “Out of the Blue, 2017” and “See how the darkof the night is red, 2017” being just a few examples.
Qureshi and Khalid spoke about the tiring ordeal of not only Pakistan but the world more generally, exacerbated by an upsurge in war and terrorism. But the two artists have also shown hope and beauty rising up from the chaotic and the painful, and as politically charged artists also called for a resolution to such atrocities. Nevertheless, it is perhaps all in vain, as Qureshi himself standing in front of his installation, “And they still seek traces of blood, 2017” said:
“As much as we are trying to get rid of violence, it is increasing everyday…”
Now upon viewing the two artists’ work simultaneously and then in a parallel visual dialogue in the open amphitheatre of the National Art Gallery, it could be said that there is something of a miracle to the exhibit unraveled during the talk. For the first time ever, the artists came out speaking very openly of their desire to end this cycle of sorrow and pain, and instantly it remains no more a mundane comment on violence with an outlook towards “hope and positivity”, but the very solution itself. That made “Two wings to fly not one”, diligently curated by Zahra Khan, one of Pakistan’s most powerful such exhibits held to date. Khalid unraveled her masterpiece titled “Ishq”, the Eternal Love. At this time members of the audience were startled when they grasped the exact meaning of “Ishq” here, as explained by Khalid herself. And then, one had only to look towards Qureshi’s “Come then, It’s time to come back home now.” It was a truly enlightening moment to be sitting around upon this site specific installation with the word “Ishq”in gold pins tapestry projection right in front of us, while just adjacent were Pakistan’s most important constitutional landmarks and buildings.
The audience was encouraged to think of the ultimate concept of love in the Sufi ideology through this event. For Pakistan, the message of these two artists is to rise up from here, balancing on the two wings of fear and hope for a flight soaring high above the differences amongst ourselves, living in gratitude and spreading the message of peace and unity to the entire world.