AUTHOR: MARJORIE HUSSAIN
PUBLICATIONS: DAWN – THE REVIEW (P.14)
DATED: 13 – 19 MAR 1997
An exhibition of paintings by Meher Afroz is a special occasion in art events. Consumed by the need to analyse the human condition in context to time, she searchesfor interpretation, meaning and rationality. Highly experimental in approach, the artist is driven by the need to work rather than exhibit, thus deadlines have no significance in her work ethos.
Since her first exhibition in 74, in which she displayed a collection of semi-abstract prints, Afroz has evolved a painterly alphabet in which elements of printmaking, painting and carving are incorporated. Using framed and soft panel boards Afroz carves symbols, indentations and lines, scarring the surface with myriad niches. Contrasting layers of paint are added, to be scratched off to reveal unexpected tonal values. Her work often assumes the patina of ancient objects, crumbling walls or unfurnished metals. Compartmentalised imagery refers to the secluded inner essence of each individual. Forms, indefinite faces are relegated to measured areas; there are impressions of heads juxtaposed yet without connection. Alcoves are the symbols with which the artist suggests the tradition of special places to safeguard treasured possessions; articles not to be handled unceremoniously. The illusive nuances suggested are of memories, thoughts and feelings that are not to be shared. The motifs used in Afrozs work are ambivalent and not easy to read. Multiple decorative borders depict extensions and limitations. A carved beast appears in a threatening pose, or it may just as well be a protective one. The sun -a constant in Afrozs work, – represents power, vitality; the ability to command life or death.
The artist has arrived at her present technique after years of research. Earlier exhibitions of prints which were texturalised by adding objects to the plates, hung side by side with paintings. Semi-figurative portraits revealed the artists extraordinary talent to disclose the keynote of a personality with a few brushstrokes. Painted marks, derived from years of exploring calligraphy, became incised with the sculptors tools. Contemporary methods are tempered with decorative elements, intricate patterns of dots resonating a balance between control and tumult. Encompassing history there are allusions to the cave paintings of Ajanta, the miniatures of the Moghul era, secrets guarded by time and disclosed by chance. Afrozs approach is collective and synthesized. Marks, symbols and colours used with recurring constancy are introduced into a state-of-the-art frame of reference. Mehers latest work, first seen at the National Art Exhibition held in Islamabad last year, won her the coveted National Award for Painting with a single entry.
Her exhibits at the Chawkandi Gallery need to be viewed at length. Each piece is an experience in which the artist provides fresh material for her continued explorations.