The Darkness of Black Lace
Author: Marjorie Husain Publications: The Review (p.14) Dated: Nov/Dec 1993
Sumaya Durranis exhibition of artworks at the Chawkandi Art, Clifton, is the most cerebral stimulating display seen in a long time. The artists intellectual, analytical approach, clearly thought out, creates brilliant mixed media pieces which close the barriers between fine art and graphics. She concludes that colour interferes with certain concerns, bringing attention to itself rather than things outside, so that there is no element of colour to seduce the vision. The phenomenon of black and white assimilates a depth of associations such as photographic processes, printmaking, graphics and film. Variegated fragments come together like pieces of a vast puzzle incomplete and totally beyond our power to assemble into a whole.
In her latest collection, Sumaya deals with stereotypes associated with female traditions and disassociates these ideas from their customary meanings. A lace impression is used freely as a feminine formula, sometimes in traces but in one visual, to a suffocating degree. The subject figure is swamped by the surrounding lacy motif, in a parody of shattered ideals of a sheltered, gentle existence.
The collage of discontinuous images refer to the discontinualities of life generally; a visual metaphor. ln other cultures too, lace is often seen as a symbol, as curtains shielding lonely or inquisitive eyes that spy from windows, or as barriers that cloak a house with outwardly seeming respectability.
Avoiding images that could be confused with sensuality, the artist portrays an anonymous figure which becomes the centre of an incoherent world. The features of the subject are indistinct; there are no garments to delineate a structured identity. The non-Formalist approach makes demands on the observer to seek out what is not pictorially shown in order to perceive the underlying viewpoint.
Sumaya believes that life is a soil in which art is nourished. She relates the visible metaphors surrounding her and points out that feelings are trivial when one is developing a point of view. Each artwork offers much to explore. The softness of the centralised figure contrasts with the sharpness of the numerous motifs employed. There are wall like structures as of tiles or bricks, creating boundaries that offset the form. Diverse shapes like doors or tombs are suggested, organic references are apparent interspersed with patterned areas. In her work the artist uses a number of interesting and experimental methods; photographic processes in which she converts the negative onto a screen like frame and inks it; off-set, cut-out mounts, collage and motifs often used as a frame to hold the artwork together. The results are quite stunning, often mysterious and very exciting.
Sumaya completed a Bachelors degree in Fine Art in 1984 from The University of Michigan, Ann Arbor-where she appeared on the Deans Honour list for four years. She then remained at the University and while studying for a double Masters, attained valuable working experience as a lecturer at the University, teaching undergraduate students.
ln 1986, Sumaya took her Masters cum laude in Fine Art as well as a Masters in jewellery making and design and meta work. Her studies include a course with F.l.T., New York, followed by an extended course with the Sir John Cass School of Art, London, where she continued to study jewellery design and metal work.
Sumaya returned to Pakistan in 88 and became a lecturer at the National College of Art, Lahore. She initiated a two month workshop on environmental sculpture and drawing for students of architecture, painting and design. The first of its kind in the country, the workshop evoked an enthusiastic and creative reaction from the participants, starved for new and innovative ideas. Sumaya enjoyed her work with the students of N.C.A. but was not destined to remain in Lahore long. Before two years had passed, her husband`s posting found her in Turkey where she joined the Department of Design, Bilkent University as an assistant professor.
Since returning to Pakistan recently, Sumaya, now in Karachi, has become a Director, designer and coordinator of a custom made jewellery establishment. At the same time, she has undertaken several successful projects for leading business houses and continues to broaden her aesthetic experience. She has a wide range of exhibitions to her credit, showing her work in Pakistan and abroad in solo and group shows since 1985. Foreign exhibitions encompass America, Norway and Bangladesh. In America, Sumaya has shown a collection of jewellery and now plans an exhibition in Karachi of two hundred customs designed rings One of a Kind, in March 94.
Sumayas earlier paintings were large, colour saturated, canvasses, visually very beautiful. ln 88 she began a different format reconstructing the image without colour which, she explains, now begins to hold more meaning for her. In the latest work the artist initiates a dialogue between her work and the observer, posing many questions. I was reminded of literary accounts of the famous last words of the great American writer; Gertrude Stein who, it is said, looked at the friends surrounding her hospital bed and asked “What is the answer?” After some time when no reply was forthcoming she uttered, “Then what is the question?”
Viewing Sumayas work was an unusually stimulating and exhilarating experience leaving an impression of confident strength and straight forward knowhow. Any lack of discernment is the problem of the observer-not of the artist.
ln the latest work, the artist initiates a dialogue between her work and the observer, posing many questions. I was reminded of literary accounts of the famous last words of the great American writer, Gertrude Stein who, it is said, looked at the friends surrounding her hospital bed and asked, “What is the answer.” After some time when no reply was forthcoming she uttered, “Then what is the question?”