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Chromatic Odyssey

Author: Salwat Ali      Publications: The Review – Dawn (p-24)      Dated: 9 Nov 2002

Exhibition Navigation

Afshar Maliks paintings are freely improvised and intuitive works created with a spirit of spontaneity. He aspires to exist in a poetic realm, one in which colour and form serve as analogues for psychological and emotional states. His seemingly limitless visual vocabulary is a complex language of personal signs and symbols evolved through fantasy and a range of interest in plants and zoological life to typography and astronomy. Also absorbed in music, he creates imagery infused with lyricism, as if he were running his fingers through a colour keyboard.

Technically speaking Afshars paintings do not fit neatly into any category or movement as he himself confesses that “l have explored a new medium,” describing it as “a way of drawing by cutting paper.” He further explains it as a bridge between printing inks and acrylics, of calligraphy plate making, of burnishing and ink wiping. The play with texture and the chemistry of different materials provide an exciting challenge, a fascination to explore, to discover and to unleash.

Calligraphy, like the metal graphic process, is an additive method. The printing surface is built up or created by gluing various materials and textures to a support. Today with a variety of new materials available, the possibilities are limitless. Afshar Malik glues paper cut-outs to the plate, for specific textures, laces, nets, stencils, crushed paper, etc, can be glued onto the adhesive. To build up a tough, durable printing surface, a strong adhesive is used. After constructing the plate, it is brushed or sprayed with a sealant. Printing ink is rubbed into the grooves between the cut-out surfaces and a few empty areas. When the ink is wiped off, a certain form of textural marking is found on the larger patches whereas the ink in the incisions surface in the form of bold black outlines. The fractured space and the raised tactile figurations are interwoven into a floating blend of magical fantasy which is the artists very own iconography. Though the faceted surfaces are geometric in shape, curvilinear contours are freely expressed as they collide and overlap throughout the paintings.

The formative processes of this present series of paintings should be traced in the context of the composite development of the artist himself. Afshar Malik went to the National College of Arts from where he obtained a postgraduate degree and later studied print making from the Slade School of Fine Arts in London.  Presently, he is an assistant professor of printmaking at his alma mater where he teachers drawing and painting in the fine arts department. Working as a staff cartoonist for noted dailies like the Jang, The Friday Times and The Muslim adds another dimension to his career which is chequered with forays into ceramics, sculpture and lithography. His forte lies in working on detailed etchings. This is probably where his use of imagery was developed.

Afshar manoeuvres effortlessly from abstract passages of colour and texture to literal representations crammed with morphology, mask-like faces and underworld creatures. ln spite of the chaos in his work, a naive joy permeates. Today in the jungle of modern, urban life, environmental hazards crowd the senses. ln order to distance himself from this phenomenon, Afshar retreats into the recesses of fantasy where his inner self can breathe freely.

A vertical painting in three sections Everyday it passes away is a narrative of the artists daily routine. A wide-eyed fish gliding through a medley of extraneous elements is equated with an early morning Stan when life is smooth and manageable. The blue/grey profiles and the clamour and clutter of the crowded forms in the second part spells strain and stress The final section depicts a ghostly image of a face drained of all energy, ready to go under. The artists sense for the grotesque and the bizarre intermingled with his wholesome humour, provokes an engaging tranquillity instead of a shocking reaction. His colour palette has a harmonious integration with his technique and medium giving it muted overtones in spite of the reds, blues and greens.

The disparate figures that float (in defiance of all the laws of gravity) through his paintings, as if coursing through water, or sailing on clouds, enhance the impact of dream imagery, making his work surreal. He terms this series as a discovery, a transformation, where he has seen images change, conflicts resolve, emotions settle and bitterness turn sweet as he winds his way into a new stylistic direction.