Meshing Urban with the Rural
Author: Marjorie Husain Publications: The Review - (p.14) Dated: 6 Mar 1997
The elegance with which Unver Shafi Khan merges the dramatic simplicity of uncluttered lines with evocative power is the principal characteristic of his current display of paintings at the Chawkandi Art, Karachi.
Confronted with the problem of giving meaning to contemporary experience, the artist assimilates environmental influence into modern philosophy. Vertical columns, gracefully curving pilasters of affluent houses contrast intriguingly with hints of an agricultural base. Vibrant yellow brush suggesting fields of mustard during the season of shikar. An allegory perhaps for the contradictory traditions of town and the rural dwelling. Unver is one of the few artists whose work subtly suggests to me a catharsis that is taking place.
Shamiana, a triptych rendered in oils on canvas, incorporates sensually linear imagery with a startling suggestion of the fragility that lies beneath the surface. Large canvases give emphasis to form, the work is sculptural, horizontal swathes of paint evoke images of terraced areas of landscape.
At the 7th National Art Exhibition, held in Islamabad in 96, Unver Shafi was acknowledged as the most outstanding painter to have emerged in recent years. An award that justified the bold step Unver took when he abandoned a successful career in advertising earlier, to devote all his talent and time to art.
The American-educated artist has been exhibiting his work in solo exhibitions since 1986, earning kudos at the International Association of Art Critics Jury Show in Paris, 93, and the Fourth Asian Art Show, Fukuoaka, in 94. His current show makes this his 9th solo exhibition. lt reveals the maturity and development of a gifted artist of considerable perception. Sensual yet disciplined, rich colouration and a textural concern do not take precedence over composition. He skirts the sensitive area between cerebral sensibility and gestural expressionism and finds a unique solution.
Supporting the dozen or so large canvases are a collection of ink and water-colour drawings on paper, a kind of work that seems to refer to surrealisms preoccupation with science. Organic shapes and fine lines mesh and interline, and there is a profusion of patterns, cross-hatching, glyphs and marks that emit an extraordinary vitality. The artists intensity of line and diversity suggest the dormant printmaker, an area to be explored at a future date.
Recently, Unver went to America where his work was included in several important collections. He has received offers lo exhibit his work, later this year by eminent gallery owners who urge him to become part of the New York. Yet unheeding of their blandishments, Unver Shafi is deeply immersed in the complex diversities of his native soil.
The American-educated artist has been exhibiting his work in solo exhibition since 1986, earning kudos at the International Association of Art Critics Jury Show in Paris, 93, and the Fourth Asian Art Show, Fukuoaka, in 94.