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Unavoidable Meeting

Author: NULL      Publications: Karachi Art Scene - (p.4)      Dated: NULL

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The empty spaces resound with mystic songs as man searches for answers to lifes questions in Anwar Saeeds canvases. Being a remarkable painter, his work which hangs at Chawkhandi Art this week, appeals to the interest and the eye with equal facility. The haunting tension in the compositions holds the figures suspended, while the linear perspective gives them the illusion of holograms, creating a picture of timeless suspense.

Reoccurring symbols provide clues to his mysterious narratives, but it is the introspective message of the artist that holds your attention throughout the show. Man playing chess with an imaginary opponent speaks of how man faces his alter ego over a life time of moves. The two figures are seated across a bisat in blue twilight. In the left-hand corner of the canvas a luminous crescent symbolises optimism, while the inverted black isosceles is the reminder of divine power.

Has the wild side of man taken over? Saeed questions this again and again as he introduces horses and tigers, two symbols which stand for all that is wild in man.

Unavoidable Meeting depicts a kneeling man facing a tiger, both are placed on horizontal planes, but the animal is elevated, perhaps to indicate now the savage in the civilised man is dominating today! While the artist has used many established metaphors, he has also tried to create some of his own. The lung fish survives drought conditions by hibernating, and to me, it makes an appropriate symbol of love explains the artist Anwar Saeed who has painted two large canvases on this theme. This primordial fish swims gracefully in a void of blue – that could easily have been water – but the artist prefers to leave it empty. These unexpected images create a surrealistic atmosphere forcing the viewer to look beyond reality.

Hazy graffiti in different languages, blended patterns and layers of paint brings the printmaker in the artist to the surface as he innovates interesting backgrounds. Leaving behind a vivid palette, Anwar Saeed has limited himself to a few colours. Blue dominates throughout the show with its variations merging into dull greens, browns and pink. The skill with which he creates tonal effects has seldom been seen in young artists, as he gradually mixes his hues, never allowing the colour to appear flat. Both the illusion of space and contours are more colour-created than linear in the paintings. The outer rims of the canvas carry the edge of the rainbow as it allows a blend of bright lines to reflect into the painting giving a sparkle to these otherwise subdued works.

Three dimensional spaces divide the canvas into compartments. Short walls often make them appear box-like, but the dominant colours are well-blended, so that the composition is not too fragmented. Movement is created through curving lines in these angular forms. The diving arch of the man in Lung fish II lends kinetic energy that transcends the spatial division and ends in the curve of the fish.

Some paintings are serene in their stillness – figures like early classical statues appear wooden and devoid of expression, but the vacant area that surrounds them pulsates with the unspent energy that is trapped within a still moment. Sometimes the void is tranquil as it speaks of a sufis silence. Such intangible effects are difficult to achieve, but Anwar Saeed with his love for mysticism and introspective search understands it and uses his skill as a painter to bring it alive in his canvases.

While the artist is flawless in his treatment of colour, he is still not comfortable with the human form. He has not been able to master the rippling of the muscles or the flow of the drapery. Even his horse is robbed of the muscular stride that gives it grace and has turned into a bulky object in places.

In an overall impressive show, a few paintings that do not come up to the standard, make one wonder if they have been used as fillers. It is time that serious artists realised how important it is to be self-critical and highly selective in choosing their work!