Exotic Beings

DATED: 19 JAN 2002

Angled lines and exuberant curves weave a pattern around curious winged creatures and gentle, mask-like faces. The sharp contrast of black and white makes a superb foil for the sweeping outlines and a diversity of complex patterns executed with flowing elegance and style. The drawings are extraordinary, instantly recognizable; the lightness of spirit that permeates the work is unmistakable.

Wahab Jaffers collection of drawings and paintings exhibited at Chawkandi Art take their essential inspiration from the collective experiences of the artist whose work has grown out of a merging of geometric abstraction, folk influences and the underlying mechanical nuances that mark his training as an engineer. An idiom of bird-like shapes as described on shards of ancient pottery; intensely patterned surfaces that echo the rhythms of Rilli patchwork or block print designs; exotic shoots topped with spiked leaves resembling birds in flight emerging from spiky apparatus, fantasy forms intertwined with complex configurations. A pattern making all things kin dominates the artists kaleidoscopic, cosmic visions.

The pieces on display absorb the viewers gaze with their staccato rhythm of playful improvisation. Using black ink on a stark white background the free- hand strength and delicacy of the linear elements generate an intensity that is unflagging. Like a tune with notes that surprise by their variance, the viewers eye is led a lively dance. In this collection the sculptural element is strongly apparent, the outcome of Jaffers urge to experiment with three dimensional pieces constructed from parts found in junk yards, An appreciation of the diverse aspects of machine parts – motifs conjuring up references to Jaffers early training – are evident in the juxtaposition of elements that comprise the artists art vocabulary. Organic objects and bizarre figures remind the observer that man is still a part of nature, though even nature is often man-made.

Lusciously coloured paintings divide the sequences of pen and ink work, soft lozenges of paint form a background framing androgynous faces that act as leitmotif. A recurring image is one of tiers of beings not quite human that seemingly gaze out at a vista located behind the observers shoulder. Who are these strange figures … guardian angels perhaps walking amongst us in the imagination of the painter?

Wahab Jaffer is a committed artist, working with devoted fervour wherever he finds himself. His studio space in Karachi is vibrant with saturated colour, every shelf and surface covered with recently completed work. Unlike many artists who only paint for a particular event, he spends the daylight hours at his easel absorbed in his world of line and colour. Since 1972, when he began to paint guided by Ali Imam and subsequently becoming a student of Ahmed Parvez, Jaffer has been an active participant in art circles as a painter and as a collector. In Karachi 2001, he held a solo exhibition of work executed in the media of pastels, and in Canada was one of 45 artists selected from over a hundred to take part in a juried group display. This event was followed by a two-artist exhibition shared with Moeen Farouqi at Gallery 401, Toronto, a show that was well attended and reviewed by the Toronto press. Before an exhibition, the artist carefully edits his work and there is much to choose from. Present during an editing session recently, I took the opportunity to examine some of the numerous pieces under consideration, each apparently a continuation of the mood captured in other works spread out, yet effectively different. Jaffer explained that his compositions are unplanned, created on each surface from an inner source fuelled by the immediacy of sensory perceptions and experience. Wahab Jaffer has the ability to create a celebratory ambience, even while eschewing colour. One feels the plethora of circles dotting the surfaces is allegorical bubbles of champagne that commemorate the joy of living.