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Colour of Change

Author: Sairah Irshad Khan      Publications: Newsline - (p.102)      Dated: May 1992

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It was almost surreal. Imagine the dark brooding canvas of Jamal Shah coming alive in a riot of colour and movement. Or Salima Hashmis stark, pristine, water colour compositions giving way to sensuous three-dimensional studies bathed in gorgeous luminous colour. And perhaps most unreal of all, an 11-artist group show where all the work displayed was not just of a high standard but also excitingly different. Chawkandi Arts recent exhibition bore testimony to change and creative evolution.

Jamal Shahs new work is a radical departure from his   earlier canvas. While no  less intense,   the dark, silent images of the past   have given way to a vibrant, living imagery. The work is still figurative, but the figures   here are not the oppressed creatures of earlier canvases. These paintings are allegorical, one depicting, for example, the mythical centaur. Brilliant colors in powerful sweeping strokes make for an expression that is upbeat and vital. And unlike the sometimes contrived, painfully controlled imagery of the past, jamals new work is unself- conscious, pure delight.

Salima Hashmi too seems to have taken a great leap forward with her new work. Although the single oil painting on display at the exhibition was sombre and some-what lacklustre, the two mixed media pieces shown were delicate and sensuous. The figure of a dancing girl is a recurrent image, caught in a three-dimensional play of light and shadow. Salimas pale sometimes insipid palette has brightened with the use of glorious aquas and violets interspersed with generous shafts of her favourite white. The paintings were evocative mood pieces and the images linger…

Like Jamal and Salima, Nahid too has moved on. Progression has always been an integral part of Nahids work. Her paintings are never one-off creations; a theme is born, mulled over, worked upon, improved on, discarded or taken to its logical conclusion. And the process often spans several shows,. At Chawkandi, Nahid displayed three large acrylics on canvas. The work once again was figurative. But the emphasis here was less on form and symbolism than on texture and colour. Using single tones, deep aquas, lilacs and saffrons, with hints of gold, Naheed has heavily layered her canvases, almost embedding her forms in the resultant richly textured surfaces – and the visual impact is quite stunning.

Superbly understated and as enigmatic as the artist herself Meher Afrozs four mixed media compositions at Chawkandi were a study in discipline. The work, in this case hardboard framed and mounted on board, is richly textured, the barely discernible faces in the old parchment-like compositions almost haunting. And the patina and dull copper effect of the work makes it appear more like sculpture than painting. The artists control of the medium is visible in every piece.

Wahab Jaffers earlier purely derivative canvases (Parvez Shakir Ali) have finally culminated in an expression that is quite his own. All four of the paintings on display – large oils on canvas – were figurative, Modigliani -style elongated figures, flat and expressionless. One, however, was different: a portrait of Ali Imam, although there are shades of Pervez in Wahabs bright vibrant colours, outlined by thick black lines, he is slowly and surely coming into his own.

Bashir Mirzas huge acrylic compositions were essentially the same sort of work he has shown in his last few exhibitions. The work, large faces, is dramatic and quite over-powering. Bashirs lines are still sure and sweeping and his colours brilliant, but there is visible in his recent work a lack of commitment. Bashir appears to be a man in a hurry.

An interesting addition to the show was the work of lesser known artists Zahin Ahmad and Siddiqua Bilgrami, Zahins water colour washes of Thatta (and one dreamland) are reminiscent of john Marins lyrical patterns of form and colour. Basically monochromatic, the diffused images are well executed and reflect Zahins growing control of his medium.

Siddiqua Bilgramis mixed media display (oil collographs and a single acrylic painting) were equally mixed in terms of range. Her oils To Reach and And They Came were futuristic creimagery but the execution was somewhat amateur. The acrylic painting, a Chinese-style composition was quite compelling. And the collographs small and textured were proficient if a bit unimaginative.

After years of cover-ups and not being allowed to show, Colin David finally got a chance to exhibit his nudes. Of the four paintings he displayed, two were nudes in the age-old Colin style, There is nothing erotic about Colins figures. Starkly minimalist, the paintings cannot be offensive even if they try, the still life on display was in the same genre but quite uninspiring. Colins older land escapes are something   treat especially by virtue of their rarity. The one on display at Chawkandi was not, however, one of his best. It is, nonetheless, a tragedy that one of Pakistans finest artists, a painter of the calibre of Colin David, has been treated so shoddily purely because his creative sensibility outrages a few obscurantists. This treatment has had the desired result: Colin David is migrating from Pakistan.

And finally, there was an entire collection (five pieces) of work by Shahid Sajjad (Zubaida Aghas work did not arrive in time for the opening). All Shahids pieces were single editions, and reflected the fact that Shahid the sculptor is finally back in form. The two floor pieces on display (bronze on wooden bases) were similar to the work showing in Ziggurat (see accompanying piece). His wall reliefs, mounted on wood, are part of another series, however. The bronze sheets are carved and moulded into intricate biblical images and carefully broken and jagged in parts. There is a feel of antiquity about them. Clearly visible in each is Shahids absolute control of his medium.