AUTHOR: SHAMIM AKHTER
PUBLICATIONS: DAILY NEWS – (P.3)
DATED: 16 FEB 2002
An exhibition of paintings by Unver Shafi Khan opened at Chawkandi Art on 14th February to run until 22nd February 2002.
Chawkandi Art hosted Unver as solo guest for the fourth time since 1997. His second show was held in 1998 and third almost after two years on 29th Feb. 2000. His career as a painter started with his first exhibition, also a solo show, at Indus Gallery in 1986 after two years of his arrival from the States in 1984.The doors of art galleries in all the major cities of Pakistan started opening for his exhibitions as a solo artist. Rohtas Gallery Islamabad as well as Alhamrah Art Gallery Lahore displayed his works in solo shows in 1987. Ziggurat Gallery Karachi in its opening exhibition in 1990 displayed his paintings providing him its walls again for a solo show in 1991 (Ziggurat did not live long enough to provide Shafi Khan its walls for a third show). French Embassy Gallery exhibited his works in a solo show in 1992; Alhamrah hosted him as a solo guest artist in 1994, Indus Gallery, Karachi showed his works in 1995 and after six months, Rohtas Gallery Islamabad invited him for a solo show. March 1996 saw his works at Alhamrah Art Gallery, Lahore. With a long list of solo shows since 1984, Unver Shafi has participated in four group shows including one at Hong Kong and none at all in USA where he studied art as a minor subject and started painting.
Influenced by what he saw on canvases in the States, Shafis paintings in mid eighties were welcomed like a breath of fresh air as compared to the monotonous nudes and horses and landscapes and cityscapes prevalent at that time on the art scene in Pakistan. His forms and colour concepts were different from what viewers were seeing around. Shafi had the skill to present his works as something new added to the art scene in Pakistan. Over the years, he kept changing his forms, rather editing them with his maturity in skills and concepts. His show at Chawkandi Art in 2000 saw much clearer concepts on his canvases. Where he created the most with the least of colour and lines. His forms in that exhibition looked closer to what Jean Arp sculpted with original plaster in 1935 as “Human Concretion” and Meret Oppenheim as “Object” in 1936. Shafis forms seemed derived from the human figure or at least shared certain organic qualities with the human figure. His large canvases at the current show at Chawkandi still have the same qualities.
Although, Shafis family background is sub-continental to the core (His grandfather had Josh Saheb as a visitor and his father could recite a verse appropriately in every other sentence in his talk) his mental makeup is cut off from his soil because of his education. Young, energetic and assertive Unver Shafi Khan, paints with modern idiom. This is how he was brought up and educated. He feels the intellectual generation gap caused by a switch over of language from Urdu to English. This is why he chose universal language of colours and forms for his expression.
So far as Shafi`s expression on canvas is concerned, he is clear headed than what is happening in the world today is not his concern. His problems are aesthetics only. He creates aesthetics on his boards. Sometimes he paints two boards separately, each in its own place looks like a complete painting, but when they are put together, the union creates a pleasant aesthetic experience. Some of his paintings, if hung upside down, give a new impression to the viewer and bring the subject to another level. This time he has exactly knows where to end his blue and start with yellow and put a dab of red in some form to startle the eyes. The use of colours is so painterly that they emit radiation. His forms on large canvases look like human limbs perhaps for the reason the viewer is so accustomed to seeing human figures, especially those of women on canvases that blocks the mind to go beyond. Forms that evoke an already known content narrow the experience and trivialise the universality of a painting. For Unver they are figurative ambiguities to give an effect of mystery. lnstead of mystery, one may perceive mysticism. The mystic sense is created where two colours reach a point of contact with each other creating misty hues. They are like simple expression of a complex thought. He thus achieves a vivid sense of an ineffable presence. The infinite variations of colour.
His show at Chawkandi Art in 2000 saw much clearer concepts on his canvases, where he created the most with the least of colour and lines. his forms in that exhibition looked closer to what Jean Arp sculpted with original plaster in 1935 as “Human Concretion” and Meret Oppenheim as “Object” in 1936. Shafis forms seemed derived from the human figure or at least shared certain organic qualities with the human figure. His large canvases at the current show at Chawkandi still have the same qualities