Between The Big And Small

DATED: 1 MAY 1992

After weeks of dormancy, Karachi has come alive with an art show almost after every few days. A major event was the group show at Chawkhandi Art where Zohra Hussain painstakingly put together home of this years finest works of the nations most talented and some of the most senior artists. The unveiling of a mammoth sculpture by Zahoor-ul- Akhlaq marked the foundation laying ceremony of the new campus of the lndus Valley School of Art and Architecture. Lahoritc Asim Akhtar, creator of photographic miniatures, put up his work at Maharat – a new gallery space.

The Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture is the brain child of a group of designers, artists and architects who felt the need for such an institution of excellence in their respective fields. Looming high behind the foundation stone stands the sculpture of Zahoor-ul-Akhlaq. Tall and angular, the sculpture has been crafted mainly out of copper.

ln its quest to preserve some of the Old Karachi the new campus of the l.V will include the re-construction of an almost hundred years old building that is being dismantled brick by brick at its old site and will be re-created on this spot as an integrated part of the campus.

On the rustic walls of sun baked clay hangs Vistaar, Aasim Akhars attempt to take the photographic image a step further towards reality. These 25 celluloid miniatures in black and white act like a window __ a peek through them can take you to places that inhabit your memory. The artist insists that it is the images that inspire him but to the viewer it is the ambiance in his work that draws him and haunts him. l keep going back to the forms, says Aasim. ln this work created over a period of five years, the artist has been draws to architectural forms, textures, human and organic shapes. Particularly haunting in his photographs are the old arches of old forgotten ruins that beekon you to step under them and listen to the stories that they have been witness to.

The images of textures – peeling paints, rough wooden boards, may not be the most original subjects but they do awaken your sense of touch. Humans appear in silhouettes and shadows – the curve of the neck and the bali makes graceful semi-circles highlighting the tactical difference between skin and metal. These images are the original negatives. l have not taken a part of a negative and blown it up, confides the artist proudly. His approach is that of a purist; he uses a simple format camera without any elaborate accessories. l have, however, taken the help of the developer to make my images more interesting, he explains. The most exciting image of the show is the stark contrast of the dark remains of a flower and foliage against a white background. This piece of dried up organic matter hangs on a twisted wire _ creating its own tension.

My new work is going to be small enough to fit on the cover of a match box, promises Aasim, To those who call his postcard sized images a miniature – his new work will come as a tiny surprise.

The group exhibition at Chawkhandi Art, inaugurated on 22nd April has a special significance because it marks the beginning of a new period in the work of Shahid Sajjad and Mehr Afroze.

Sculptor Shahid Sajjad exhibits a series of bronze reliefs cast from wax moulds, a technique he has mastered over the last two decades. Shahid who mainly worked into the human figure has created landscapes in bronze. His two horizontal reliefs mounted on wooden boxes named, Tidal Babylonian landscape I and ill evoke images of the holocaust in the Mesopotamian Desert. The sands seem to be drawn to the centre of a ranging inferno, within which, minds the wreckage of a machine of death. The sensitive details of the rippling sands are magnificently reproduced. His vertical reliefs are a series The mythical image, The Image and The Real lmage, ln The mythical image the sculptor creates detailed textures of a crumbling square of rotting iron – a deliberate attempt to tell the viewer how the myth has been shattered and lost its invincibility.

The lmage is a highly stylised image of a woman with big sad eyes and twigs in her hair. The last in this series The real lmage, is an image close to that of a sand pattern left behind by a receding wave. Almost symbolic of the wave of time that leaves behind nothing but the Real image.

Mehrs images unearthed from the shrouds of time are born from her own experiments to chemically age paper and wood. She has been working on this for the last two years but this is the first time it has been put on display. A full-fledged exhibition of this work is to follow in a few months. ln colours of weathered sandstone and copper, wood and iron, she paints hazy forms and mysterious sad faces. The inscriptions belong to a lost civilisation.

Nahids paintings – all three of them are striking in both colour and content. ln recent weeks, the artist has uncluttered her female form by unclothing her and reducing the elements that surround it. The Golden Maidens is one of Nahids masterpieces. lt is an exceptional painting with a glowing quality – the groups of women that occupy this rectangular shape are placed in a ballet-like formation. Painted in golden lines, they seem to float against a sunlit beach in a dance cheographered by nature. I never paint without imagery, says Nahid This canvas shows the progress of woman as she grows in age – even at an older age she can reach her golden period.”

Boredom, curiosity and indifference are masks worn by the women that inhabit Wahabs huge canvases. His rhythmic strokes create an interesting blend of bright hues. In the black curling edges and touches of white, the guiding spirit of Ahmad Pervaiz – the artists mentor – can be seen. But, Wahab Jaffers work has come of age, his bold imagery and compositions have come a long way from the limpid eyed beauties done in subdued earth tones of his first solo show.

Salima Hashmi has introduced a new element in her work – the Kathak dancer, probably inspired by her friend Nahid Siddiqui, Salima work is a synthesis of the earlier treatment of colour and form combined with the silhouettes of the dancers. They create a new movement, and the music of her bells can almost be heard in the swirling movements of white breeze like strokes that wrap the canvas in their folds.

The other five painters sadly disappoint the viewer because they offer nothing new either in concept or technique. Bashir Mirzas paintings appear a continuation of his earlier acrylic on display at the Indus Gallery in the occasion of his fiftieth birthday.

It was unfortunate that Zubeid Aghas work could not be included the inauguration as it did not arrive a time from Islamabad. All the admirably of this pioneer of modern art in Pakistan look forward to the latest statement in paints from her.