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A Curious Cohesion

Author: Nadia Abbas      Publications: The Friday Times - (p.11)      Dated: 13 May 1993

Exhibition Navigation

Currently on view at Ziggurat, Karachi, is a group show of five Karachi based artists – Elizabeth Dadi, David Ales worth, Samina Mansuri, Durriya Kazi and Naiza Khan. The interesting thing about this show is that though grouped together, the works are radically different in medium. Inspiration and expression. And yet, paradoxically, it is this very individuality of expression and integrity of intellect which draws these disparate works into one cohesive exhibition.

Elizabeth Dadis first exhibition of sculptures, held almost a year ago at Ziggurale  featured simple, minimalist works in modular clay. The simplicity of line and form not with- standing, they were intriguing, enigmatic works which evoked multiple responses in the viewer. Elizabeth is now working in another, relatively new, industrial material — aluminium cast in a foundry. The aluminium itself is recycled from automobile parts and the mould, including geometric elements is completely hand built. Says the artist, “The whole process of making the objects cuts across the boundary of craft and industrial manufacture – the material is both old and new.”

Her sculptures work on several levels, both conscious and subconscious. “My work”, says Elizabeth, “should not be seen to have a single meaning, I try to evoke associations with various objects and symbols l have come across – in addition, my finished pieces should be visually interesting.”

While Elizabeth acknowledges that minimalism has been a guiding influence in the past, of late she has “felt confined by its simplifying narrowness” and has introduced new elements in her work. “However”, she admits, “I do retain some of minimalisms formal concerns like size, repetition, materials. The objects are to have both ancient and modern resonance. They are influenced by symbols in African, Mayan and New Guinean preindustrial cultures, but are also totems of our ever increasing dependence on machinery. They bear some resemblance to them and made from their cadavers.”

“ln Pakistan”, says David Ales worth. “People tend to think immediately of David Smith and Julio Gonzalez when they see steel sculpture. Although they were very much the pioneers of steel construction, there have been at least two generations of steel sculptors since then”. David probably gives more credit to his viewer than is due. Only a highly informed handful would make the association, for sculpture, particularly steel sculpture remains uncharted territory as far as the average viewer is concerned. Here where sculpture stops at Henry Moore, Davids constructions of cast parts, found steel objects and manipulated steel stock are truly ground breaking.

“The sculptures grow from many sources”. Says David. “l draw a great deal to collect and edit ideas and only a tiny percentage of these ideas become sculptures. The drawing only helps to a point. Once the sculptural idea is there. The sculpture takes over and develops independently.”

Quoting his influences, David admits that while they are many, they fall basically into two main types. “Firstly there is the influence of other art, mostly the work of sculptors I admire, but also painters, African art in particular. Then there is the more private influence of nature, of mans invention and all that life reveals”.

Speaking of his current work, he says. “I think one or two of the new pieces begin to have the feel of African carvings in the kind of static dynamism, the contained energy, alertness and presence which typifies them. That is something l am positively seeking in the work, to change the steel and handle it to a point where it is all my own, an extension of my vision of what sculpture can be.”

Durriya Kazi, who works in ceramic, concrete, bronze and welded steel, says that in the past year her work has returned to the more traditional language of sculpture. “I have always travelled between works that is spontaneous, temporal, often fragile, relating to a sudden insight and having the directness of drawing; and work that is more timeless and substantial. Perhaps it is the difference between poetry and prose.”

With its linear, drawn welded steel, her Men of Steel carries the language of the previous show (April 92). lt evolves into a larger scaled and more formal work Days of Nights.

“l am aware of tapping into many diverse sources”, says Durriya. “The laocoon, the parthenon friezes, the work of Gaudier-Brzeska and the rich formal language of sculpture of the Subcontinent have all informed my works.”

Samina Mansuri, the only artist in the group to show pure paintings, is exhibiting works done mainly in oil and beeswax, built in layers on canvas and wood. “The space in the paintings has changed from the work shown last year”, says Samina. “lt is now personal and relies less on conventions of landscape. They deal with issues of interiority and exteriority, the tangible and the intangible and the present and the past. They attempt to deal with time rather than space only.”

The paintings have no parents interest in feminine imagery and easy categorisations. “The content”, says Samina Mansuri, “suggests a sustained involvement with the larger issues of birth and death, fecundity and gender difference.”

Naiza Khan is showing etchings, copper engravings, a woodcut and mixed media collages framed in Perspex.

The show, which ends on 22 May, is essential viewing, exhibiting as it does, interesting new work by some of the countrys finest young artists.