Author: Shamim Akhtar Publications: Unknown - Art&Artist Dated: Jan 2005
Chawkandi Art hosted as exhibition of recent paintings titled “Pindar” by Afroz on 11 January 2005. The show will continue until 19 January 2005. Although Afrozs works appear in group shows held at various art galleries all over the country every now and then, she took almost three years to hold a solo show. Her last solo was held at Chawkandi Art on 16 October 2001. A graduate with honours from Government College of Arts and Crafts, Lucknow, lnclia, Afroz paints on issues related to her roots that flower in the cultural values of the sub-continent.
The title of the current exhibition Pindar suggests a continuity of Mehrs philosophy on her canvases at her early solo exhibition at Chawkandi Art. At that exhibition Mehr quoted a couple from Rumi that meant that only self-denial could lead to the destination of ultimate love. This time she has taken the issue of Pindar – a contradiction to self-denial. Pindar means self-esteem, ego and vanity according to the situations a person suffers from this value of our past culture. A maiden of past times would not speak her mind out even if she were madly in love with someone. Her ego would, allow her to do that it hurt her vanity to speak the first word. Lf she did so, she would have lost self-respect. Despite suffering inflicted upon oneself due to this idealistic value, the person derived satisfaction by acting upon it. Let made one feel like a martyr. To the pragmatic mind, it might seem foolish. As our society has become pragmatic, the value has become a rare commodity.
Mehr elevates the subject to religious heights. Besides siding with the truth, it was the Pindar of the Martyr of Islam – the grandson of our Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him), who gave away his life and the lives of his followers and kith and kin in the battlefield of Karbala. The war is still on and people are shedding their blood for the same reason on the same grounds. Mehr has chosen an aesthetic language to relate the story of Pindar. She says it with flowers. She has used wood boards as canvases. She works on two separate boards, one with a flower and the other with writing from a couplet and joins them together as one canvas. She breaks the spaces with contrasting colours and variation of forms. Aesthetically she paints a twig of roses in turquoise on a sea-green canvas and places this piece next to grayfish canvas breaking its simplicity with a verse. Throughout on this part of the canvas green dotted lines run relating the one to the other board. Renditions on her small canvases remind me of her skills as a print maker. Her larger canvases on doors and windows, with the images of windows and doors on some, bear resemblance to Nahids early works. ln fact when Mehr paints figurative, specially women, she seems to be under the spell of Nahids canvases. A close friendship between two artists does influence the works of one or the other. Sometimes back, when I pointed out the influence of Anwar Saeeds work on Afshar Maliks canvases, he did not deny it. He rather proudly accepted the fact and contributed it to their long- standing friendship.
Nahid painted her women in a different context in doors and windows. Mehrs profiles with wide-open eyes indicate a wait, a lost hope. The Pindar did not allow the maidens to speak about their emotional attachments. On the contrary Nahids women are bold and aggressive. There is no falsehood about them. Mehr does not stick to women only. ln fact she works on a value. During the process it so happens that her female forms, and compositions bear a resemblance to those of Nahids. At a group show at Momart, not very long ago, paintings by the two artist friends were placed side by side on the wall. It was difficult to say which was Nahids and which was Mehrs as the palette was the same as well. Fortunately the two did not lose time to abandon the red of that palette.
Like Mehrs early show at Chawkandi, one sees crescents, Angarkhas etc. as metaphors for waning and lost values. Angarkha was worn by the Mughal kings and men of high ranks. lt presumably refers to the indian Muslim glory of the past. There are symbols of religious belief also on her canvases. A quote of lqbals couplet makes the context of these symbols evident. The couplet means that only the rituals remain and person as a human being is not there.
Meher Afroz is a woman with very strong characteristics, which have added a positive dimension to her personality. She paints beyond the concerns of commercialism.
Her solo at Chawkandi in 1999 was a series with perfectly balanced relationship between the central point and the circle as an allegory. At that time, she said that it was her belief that all humans were born with an instinct of right and wrong. Reinforced, by religion and society this instinct built a protective circle of spirituality around them.
It was at that exhibition that Meher Afroz was found as an artist of individual artistic sensibilities. Earlier, she was occupied by works of dabbed prints for more than ten years. She links her present creativity with her past work, saying she was Meher ten years back also as she was today; but she did not realise the emergence of new Meher since the year 1987 when she came up with her first solo exhibition of paintings and etchings. Her figurative paintings were a major departure in her journey from prints to paints. Since then, Meher is exhibiting her artistic sensibilities through colours and forms with a special stress on texture. She equates texture with language. Wood itself is a living thing. Her paints further enliven its grains. All her paintings at Chawkandi are on wood, a medium she has adopted for quiet sometime. Mehers paintings are an outcry of her philosophy.
Born in Lucknow, Meher graduated in Fine Arts from Government College of Arts and Crafts, Lucknow. She obtained her Art Masters` Training Course from Lucknow Government Art College. She has served in the capacity of Senior Lecturer at the Central institute of Arts and Crafts, Karachi and now is a much-adored teacher at Indus Valley School of Art. She won first prize in Graphics at National Art Exhibition.
Meher does not find any change in her ideology except the influences of what she gained through experiences and observation. She feels that cultural influence of Lucknow is as much all-apart of her personality as the society of today in Karachi. These interactions with people and society also influence her paintings. She says, “ln the 21st Century, when values are being redefined; words and terminology is also going through a change. So is painting changing with the change of values and terminology.”