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Art in Transition

Author: Niilofur Farrukh      Publications: Karachi Art Scene      Dated: 3 Sept 1997

Exhibition Navigation

The prints, paintings and sculpture break through the barrier of stereotypes – they share a similar sensibility but express diverse social and academic concerns in a personal vocabulary. The Ziggurat must be complimented for bringing this work of five artists together on the Karachi an scene.

Samina Mansuri, a product of C.I.A.C, Karachi, Pratt Institute and New York Studio for Drawing, Painting and Sculpture – has chosen the time-honoured surface of the canvas for her expression. She combines wax with pigment to layer it which is scratched, carved and cut into to compliment the spiky cactus shape her primary motif. The cactus fruit is emblematic of fertility despite hostile environment. Her surrealistic imagery depicts flora, cactus flower bursting open, spreading forth seeds that travel like sperm in subterranean passages. This drama in nature is painted in heavy textures with an organic palette of golds and browns, vermillion and green. The cactus stalks in Rumours of Heaven comes alive in a blaze of colour against the mid night sky. Samina, who has spent eight years abroad, feels both her experiences in New York and in Karachi are now an intrinsic part of her work. An artist should be true to her personal experience`, she emphasises.

Durriya Kazis concern is her strong affinity with her heritage – both Islamic and sub continental.

In her sculpture, Durriya seeks to borrow from both these sources. At the show her work appears in a stage of transition. Men of steel is a modern open sculpture – an elongated form that slices into space with its extended arm. Cast in concrete is Days of Nights, a bulky piece with undulating lines, reminiscent of the monumental public sculpture built as a tribute to the proletariat.

Naiza Khan is an accomplished print maker. Her woodcuts, copper engravings, etchings and collages represent the work completed in the last few years. The most effective is her emotive woodcut in black and white. In almost life- size, a nude couple hold hands. Their severed heads lie at their feet speaking of the physicality of their relationship – a suggestion hi-lighted by the ripe pomegranate as it spills its seeds between them. Naiza concentrates on her forms, preferring to use a monochromatic palette in her prints.

David Ales worth has mature understanding of his craft. Using mild steel he has put together nine sculptures in varying sizes. Bombs Kiss is the only one in Neem Wood. He is partial to open sculpture – a genre taken to new heights by his countryman David Smith. His sculpture is fashioned from coiled, curved, twisted metal bars, sometimes collaged with found hardware objects. Often his titles suggest wit and humour – little princes — a small scale piece from its jumble of lines, suggests the silhouette of a little girl in a flaired dress with an arched hair band and Raggedy Ann like locks of hanging hair – a theme no doubt inspired by his little daughters. Davids mastery over the material makes it appear deceptively pliable and easy to handle. Even with a strong presence – his work remain interesting and easy to live with.

Elizabeth Dadi expresses herself in minimalistic reliefs. Her Reliquary 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 hang on the wall, not unlike convex jelly moulds. Cast in third generation aluminium they have been prepared from celluclay moulds Elizabeth has added a patina in mellow hues that dulls the natural brightness of aluminium giving it an ageless quality. The decorative patterns and shape of the forms tease the mind into a game of association.

Educated in England and the USA – these artists bring to the show not only a personal vision, but also contemporary skills. There is refreshing diversity in their aesthetic problems that vary from personal themes to academic issues. What sets their works apart from the prevalent art trends in the city is that they are not afraid to discover and that they are not inhibited by their medium. This has led to a journey in which art can be in transition, unresolved not easy to understand but never boring.