Afshar Maliks Observations

DATED: 12 DEC 1995

In Afshar Maliks display of prints at Chawkandi Art, Clifton, he records his life and experiences with wry humour. The etchings and a number of ceramic pieces, refer to early impressions, a childhood steeped in the folk stories of the Punjab and a love of nature. There is also the frustrations of an artists life, disillusionment and the curling brown leaves of a young mans dreams. Conveyed with ironic comments on the facades of Establishment there is also the ultimate coming to terms with the system, with life and death.

Afshar, who graduated from the National College of Arts, Lahore, in 1978, has a wealth of professional experience to draw upon. He has worked with newspapers as a cartoonist, as a designer illustrator for PTV and for UNICEF. He made puppets for the Mira Theatre, and from 83 to 86 he was a lecturer in Fine Arts, at the National College of Arts. ln 88, Afshar spent two years at the Slade School of Art, London, taking a post-graduate course of print-making. During the course, he studied lithography. A subject he now teaches at the N.C.A. where he holds the post of Assistant Professor.

Afshars detailed prints are assembled from diverse etched plates. Collage, myriad intricate patterned areas of dots, lines and tiny figurative images are woven together in a never ending story. Trappings of daily lives, spectacles, tea-pots, cushions and radios act as clues to existences that are segmented with impatient compassion. Curtained areas are mysterious, earthquakes create traumas, childhood games, and folk objects all part of the weft and the woof that shape the design. Movement is created by tiny points of light that follow their own direction. Symbols are knitted into the overall design. Drawing from childhood memories, Afshar recreates the actions of his mother who endlessly embroidered, knitted and patch worked for her family. When colour is used, it is to rediscover a plate, to emphasise or illuminate areas with transparent, water-colour inks. The muddy river of life, part of the folk mythology of the Punjab, transports humans, animals, material belongings, even an up-side-down traffic policeman, carried irrevocably through a journey of the rivers choosing.

Small-etched plates were used to formulate the artists calendar, diary pages, revealing moods ranging from sunny to showery. An envelope carries a letter from the artist to himself, a bird plays on a swing, cats, tigers and kings are all significant in the artists idiom.

The experience of trekking in unpolluted northern regions, a regular activity for some years, is depicted in a composition that compares the balance of life in a natural area against the frenetic activity and increasing intrigue of life in town. Commenting on society, an etching measuring 20 by 5 inches is titled The Meeting Season. It portrays the wilful lack of communication between groups of people. Presiding at the head of the table, a figure looks down the table upon a group of figures, each preoccupied with personal concerns. One grinds pigment, another carries a dagger – tea-cups are in evidence. Crowns are worn, showing each figure reigning supreme in his own tiny world. ln the same vein, Party time, has the opening of an art exhibition. The guests are specially dressed up for the occasion and eying each other, ignore the artwork. The curator Slumps in a chair, tired (or bored). Afshar offers a candid viewpoint with extraordinary linear versatility.

The artists ceramic pieces, as his prints, are alive with surprising, often miniature-scaled detail. Incorporating homily images, buttons, childrens earrings, minute birds and fish, the artist shares kaleidoscopic memories, a poetic imagination.