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Text | Sara Yawar

Visuals | Courtesy Canvas Gallery


Issue 48

An exhibition titled ‘The Summer Show’ took place at Canvas Gallery in Karachi on the 18th of June and was held till the 27th of June, 2019. Curated by Hameed Haroon, this show comprised of works by various artists that have been collected by Shakil and Rehana Saigol. According to Rehana Saigol this collection was being made since her teenage years, adding these objects of beauty to her personal treasures. But initially, she ran out of space for their display and storage and was proposed by Sameera Raja (owner of Canvas Gallery) to put them on sale. Through this exhibition, Saigol not only showcases her valuable art compilation but also pays tribute to their respective creators.

One of the artists whose work was on display was Anwar Saeed who is a highly esteemed veteran artist of Pakistan. Born and based in Lahore, Saeed’s work is known for addressing homosexuality. A painting by him titled When Happiness Hurts was a part of the Saigols collection which comprised of a partially nude male figure with a serpent coiled around its body. Across the figure is a frame-like structure out of which explodes white liquid, which is possibly symbolic of ejaculation while the serpent could be representing sexual desire. Just like the title suggests, this visual is perhaps reflecting upon the secrecy of homosexual relationships in our culture and how it is still not openly accepted.

Another esteemed artist whose work was a part of this collection was Khadim Ali. Born in Quetta, he hails from a family of Afghani refugees and has specialized in mural painting and calligraphy. His art piece on display at this exhibition is from his series titled Bamiyan Series; a miniature painting which seemingly looks like graffiti art. This particular image addresses a raid in Bamiyan, Afghanistan in which two sculptures of the Buddha were destroyed by the Taliban in 2001. Being heavily affected by the incident, the artist revisited the city and made an archival documentation of the city’s condition after the attack, which then resulted into this particular art work.[1]

Moeen Faruqi is another artist whose work Story Board – 1 was a part of this exquisite collection. This particular art piece comprised of multiple faces staring at different directions, looking expressionless and without life since Faruqi’s work reflects upon the estranged people of society.[2] By working with caricatures, the artist is possibly trying to add an element of humour to his visuals amidst the confusion, reflecting upon the disorderly state of people that dwell within a controlling society. On the other hand, R.M Naeem had created a more realistic form of portraiture; in his visual titled Between the Shadows an expressionless figure is standing against a wall with huge shadows being cast over it. Like Faruqi’s work, this visual is perhaps also reflecting upon the human condition of being controlled by superior entities, with those entities being represented as shadows.

The Saigols were privileged to also own an art piece by the ever famous Tasadaq Sohail. An artist and short story writer, he passed away in Karachi in 2017 and is known for making nude female figures. His art work on display which was untitled depicts a nude woman standing within a canal of water while a monstrous face of a bear towers above the figure in the form of a cave opening. This visual is either depicting a dream experienced by the artist, taking the hovering fog above the woman into consideration or probably suggesting his unconscious desires. By showing the mouth of the cave being the mouth of an animal while a nude woman walks into it is an indication of sexual fantasy. On the other hand, artist Mohammad Ali’s visual What a Wonderful World depicts the portrait of a man screaming in agonizing pain while the background is shown to be in a deep shade of red. This image either comments upon the atrocities that occur in the world today or possibly a suppressed desire of the artist, which he depicts through a pain stricken figure.

Apart from having the names of some established male artists to the list, the Saigols’ collection was also supported by the works of some very renowned women artists as well. One of them was Naiza Khan who is one of the pioneering printmakers of Pakistan. Being a feminist artist, her work is known for reclaiming the female body in a patriarchal world. Khan’s diptych Exhale which was a part of this exhibit depicted a study of pen and ink through which the artist explored the nude body from various angles; figures are shown to be standing within containers while one figure is shown to be breathing out lines in the form of air. If observed, the figures are placed within the containers as if they are objects or plants, a possible reflection upon the objectification of women. Similarly, Summaya Durrani’s diptych depicted various nude women seated while some stand with their arms above their heads, almost as if they have been tied together and enforced with control. Despite having similar concerns, both artists have a unique language and style which captivate the viewer’s attention.

Nahid Raza is another famed art veteran whose painting was a part of this display. Known for having an indistinct language and for using a raw color palette, Raza is also known for being a feminist and has made work to honor women of Pakistan which garnered her the President’s Pride of Performance award in 2007.

There were many other works on display but to shed light on a few, this particular collection of art works by such prestigious artists and veterans is something one can only hope to own someday. To witness these artist’s works in person is not only an experience itself, but the works also leave the viewers in awe of each artist’s mesmeric skill. While we celebrate the pioneers of Pakistani art, we hope that these artists will encourage people to pursue art in the future and that art will expand and get better recognition in our country.

[1] Guggenheim, ‘Khadim Ali’, https://www.guggenheim.org/artwork/artist/khadim-ali

[2] Khaas Gallery, ‘Moeen Faruqi’, https://khaasgallery.com/artist/moeen-faruqi/

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