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Neat Prints Promote the Medium

Author: Mohammad Jami      Publications: Art Scene      Dated: NULL

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Two printmakers, who are being credited to have pioneered group workshop activities in the National College of Art in Lahore, have displayed their fresh etchings at the Gallery Chawkandi in Karachis Clifton area. Since their joint show began on April 5, art patrons have shown distinct interest in their well-executed works in a medium that is not practised commonly.

Anwar Saeed and Naazish Attaullah, both of whom had received advanced training in printmaking in schools in London, have resolutely managed to establish a regular print workshop at the college. Naazish is also planning to have her own print making studio. With about 100 students, quite a high figure for a medium that is not even looked at with interest by many practising artists, there is a definite surge of artistic activities aimed at removing the prejudice and lack of understanding about etching and print-making. As one commentator puts it: “The N.C.A. has been fortunate to host two print-making workshops by eminent printmakers from Britain, Bartholomeu-dos-Santos. Head of the Printmaking Department of the Slade and had been in Lahore twice during the last two years. He had conducted etching workshop, and lanceted to the students. Peter Dogfish, lithography teacher at the Chelsea School of Art was also at the college in December, reviving the `dormant lithography section of the Printmaking Department of NCA. The first due to be established in the subcontinent in the last century”.

Printmaking in Karachi was also started in almost similar fashion in the mid-sixties when in 1964 American print expert, Pone de Leon organised a printmaking workshop at the Pakistan American Culture Centre for a few months. The interest in the acid, plate and paper activities had registered a major surge in those days, causing nearly all the artists in Karachi to fashion out themselves as printmakers but within a few years, everyone went back to oil painting and watercolours. One can only hope that Lahore will fare better than Karachi and with the proper NCA print workshop having taken roots, this form of artistic activities will generate a kind of movement for prints.

The Gallery Chawkandi show was a stout one in its technical quality. Both Anwar and Naazish have competed with each other in demonstrating that they are confidently moving to tame and cajole the slow-moving and labour-intensive medium in which the acid and the metal plates often resist and cheat the artistic vision. The different stages of applying different techniques in fact often shape the outcome.

Anwar Saeed is senior to Naazish and it shows in his etchings quite perceptibly. Having secured a distinction in painting in 1978 from the National College of Art. Anwar held several solo shows before he switched over to printmaking after studying at the Royal College of Arts in London. He brings a sharp intelligence and good understanding of the medium to his forceful social comment in his etchings He appears to be bustling with ideas and each of his etching has more elements than one generally cares to etch in the prints. His control over each element tells the viewer that he is as much at home with technical control of the elements as with the ideas that touch us only when we try to fathom Anwar Saeed etchings, The colours, burnished bluish- gray in varying tonalities, obey his will to convert them to his advantage. He uses aquatints with great flair for showing his style in subtle touches. Anwar takes viewer to be as observant about the small bits of technical and intellectual details as he himself is. Anwar`s faith in printmaking is touching and one cannot help sharing that robust interest in whatever he is trying to say and want us to take notice of. His sensitive interpretation of Faizs couplets and youthful yearnings has imparted both narrative beauty and artistic strength to his etchings.

Naazish has a very different set of visual statements to make. She has consistently used the `chaddar symbol with great aesthetic exploitation of the motifs that hand printed materials offer to the artist. She is heavily tilted towards exposition of the state of women in our society. She says: “One just cannot remain indifferent to what is happening around us and the women suffer more in our society because there are orthodox practices which still hold sway over so many aspects of lives of the women”.

With the chaddar motifs forming the basic background, Naazish makes her visual and social statement by working in a smaller frame within the big one. This technique has been used with considerable success. The symbolic female figures, floating clouds in differing formations, different angles of a massive object and similar other variations of the elements and forms help Naazish to design well-executed etchings.

In clear contrast to using many elements by Anwar Saeed, Naazish is extremely good at simplifying what she wants to say. There is well-rehearsed neatness in her approach which makes her to finish her etchings with refined touches. The use of the red in some of her prints only makes one believe that she is more interested in achieving a better design than anything else. The so-called shrouded forms have been etched merely to achieve the design beauty, often depriving them of the warmth of the human feelings.

Since so many mechanisms are involved in producing prints, the printmakers will have to impart human warmth to their visual statements and resist the tendency to demonstrate their love for technical purity at the expense of the meaningful artistic statement.