Issue | 44
Text & Visuals | Mariam Qureshi
Islamabad is a quiet city. Life here is comparatively slower paced then the hustle and bustle of cities like Karachi and Lahore. Similarly people have a misconception that the art scene of Islamabad holds little significance in the mainstream art scene of Pakistan. But little is known about the intense creative juices that bubble under its quietude. The young artists of Islamabad are individuals to be reckoned with. Quietness, stillness and the beauty of the city is a muse for these young artists. In this article are some of the finest young artists of Islamabad who are not only inspiring but also deal with issues rarely addressed.
One such artist is Sana Arjumand. Sana’s recent work is stunning in the diversity she has given to singular subject or form – and that is a Hoopoe bird. She has painted the Hoopoe bird in fauvist colors. What is so special about Sana’s Hoopoe bird is that each of the paintings have a visual texture and compositionally the energy her paintings emanate because of the interplay of colors and shapes is something not seen often. Sana has chosen the Hoopoe as her muse because she holds the bird sacred for its spiritual significance. Sana maintains “The crest on the head of the bird represent the ultimate divine truth in Sufi traditions. Hoopoe was known to be a friend and messenger for the prophet Hazrat Sulaiman.’” She adds “ When i saw a Hoopoe bird perched at my window. It was a rare sight and I felt that birds entire anatomy was talking to me. The bird instantly became my muse. I realized every time I painted the bird on canvas I felt a certain emotional clarity internally.” She has held numerous shows at international levels and is a graduate of National College of Arts Lahore in 2005.
Amina Hashmi is a miniaturist who has pioneered in incorporating anime art into traditional miniature techniques. She has used traditional miniature techniques and her subjects are Anime characters. Usually a series is an entire comic strip based on imaginary characters the artist has conjured in her minds eye. She explains: “I am into really the mundane, weird, cute and the random. Things that people don’t give much importance to, or are not interested in addressing. Some of my work is inspired by digital spaces. I find human interaction in digital spaces fascinating. It is an alternate world where you can change your id and who you are. You can imagine fairies and goblins.” She adds “Polaroid camera also interests me. It gives a reality, which cannot be tampered with. It would be nice to turn fantasy into a reality of a polaroid picture and bring the unreal into the real world.” In Amina Hashmi’s work the effect is outstanding and pleasurable to see. Amina graduated from the miniature department National College of Arts Lahore in 2005.
Imran Hunzai is a multi faceted artist who is not just a fine artist but also a performer, musician and a poet. What is special about Hunzai’s work is his intense personal attachment to his subject and how he expresses it with expertise in a variety of mediums ranging from sculpture to sketches and jewelry design. He talks about his subject matter “Hailing from Hunza my family members worked hard in fields and I often helped them to tend the farm. Hence I led a very organic life. We made our own toys and my grand mother told us stories. We were mentally and physically agile in contradiction to today’s generation who due to industrialization are now leading an unhealthy and artificial life. His recent solos were titled “ An Unromantic present”, “Wooden woes” and “Body extension” express the above-mentioned issues. In “Unromantic present” He made sculpture out of outdated material and wood; hence the contradiction between the organic and industrial. In this exhibition he plays around with toffee wrappers and children stickers.” In “Body extension” he uses computer gadgets hardware’s to make jewelry. Stating that now technology has become an extension of our bodies. They have become an unhealthy need and a necessity. Hunzai graduated from National College of Arts Lahore in 2006.
Jazib Jacob is a recent graduate of Pindi National College of Arts and his work stands out because his subject matter is unique and he has carried out his subject matter in a creative and aesthetic manner. The outcome of his Ink, charcoal, pen and paper drawings speak a language turning something organic into a sophisticated art piece. He talks about his unique subject matter “I picked up an ordinary stone and decided to research on the growth of a stone and how it is formed and elements that make the stone grow”. He represents the elements in colors and composition; Nigredo as the color black, Albedo as the color white, Citrinitas as spiral and Rubedo as bubbles. Jazib graduated from National College of Arts, Rawalpindi and is currently teaching at his alma mater.
Jazib Jacob, Ink Charcoal and Pen on paper
Ujala Hayat is a young artist that questions notions that plague the society – how an individual is “supposed” to and conditioned to think. She questions the role of a woman as a manufacturing machine and her aversion to pregnancy, which is often considered a blessing, and a gift to womanhood. In one video clipping she has interviewed people pertaining their views to pregnancy and another clip in which the artist is being impregnated with their opinions. She has made paintings and fashioned them in the style of the romantic era. In these paintings she has depicted herself as pregnant woman with fruits juxtaposed in the composition. She maintains; “In these images I have depicted myself as how most people’s opinion and outlook are towards pregnancy and womanhood”. Ujala Hayat graduated from National College of Arts in 2018.
Usman Khalid graduated in 2016 from the department of miniature. He is a master of technical prowess and his depiction of the human anatomy and still life is superb. He maintains “I didn’t want to limit myself to the traditional miniature techniques. I incorporated charcoal, graphite, ink in my works but the intricacy in it was that of miniature. I used abstract images and distorted the human body and my muse was a musical band called Sibur-ros. It is a band from Iceland.”Usman’s work carries a quietude and rhythm, which is the salient feature of an artist endeavoring to capture a subject with great care and skill.
Jibran Shahid’s work is grotesque, expressive and one is astounded by the physical harmony in which the forms have been dismembered and rearranged. His work is a metamorphosis between horse and man and although the subject is unique but it has a flavor of the renaissance artist. The finesse and the realistic fluidity has a flavor of the renaissance artists. His half man and half horse sculptures and paintings are dark, menacing and in some pieces humorous. Example being the horse with a face of a man pouting, Jibran graduated from National College of Arts Rawalpindi in 2016 from the department of sculpture.
Nazir Hunzai’s work is also grotesque and expressive. There is a gruesome haunting in his work. The metamorphosis and transformation of man and nature has a darkness that makes his work stand out. His work is a mixed medium of sculpture and drawings. He talks about his work “I have tried to depict how man interferes with nature and how nature adopts us and we adopt to nature. The inter relation and inter transformation of one and the other.” He further maintains that such interference is unhealthy and can lead to a warped existence. The most interesting of his works was a sculpture in which the artist has utilized an abandoned nest and juxtaposed a hybrid between a tumor and a human fetus. Another interesting piece was a sculpture in which man is transforming into an industrial mechanical scorpion-like creature. Amongst his drawings he had depicted a vegetable whose roots were transforming into multiple tumors etc. Hunzai graduated in 2012 from National College of Arts Rawalpindi and icurrently has his own practice and commissioned work.
Sakina Akbar’s work is a narrative of her own personal experiences of secularism and inter- relation and a balance between social tradition and liberation. She talks about her work “I majored in miniature but I incorporated surrealism in my compositions and concept. I first write a story and my artwork evolves around that story. The visuals are not restricted to miniatures but installations and other 3 dimensional forms. I am from SIndh where everybody be it Hindu and Muslim live together harmoniously. My work has symbols like Buddhist prayer wheel and spiritual cups of monks.” She adds, “ My recent work revolves around a story of a curious leaf that travels and goes to different places and studies Sufi teachings.” In one painting she depicts a girl juxtaposed on background of traditional Ajrak motifs and the shirt she is wearing has strong western connotations. Sakina holds close to her heart, her work stories.
Hence bubbling under the quietude of Islamabad is creativity waiting to be reckoned with.