Face Values


Karachis gallery Chawkandi seems to be starting this decade on the right note – with an impressive and much awaited exhibition of work by Meher Afroze.

Afrozes latest work is a series of emotional portraits of sorts, depicting the naked, the faces are minus the masks of her last series, and without these masks they look strangely vulnerable.

The strong close-ups framed in rough lines (reminiscent of carving) are often merciless; the face of a beautiful kohi-eyed woman is scarred by a diagonal slash across the cheek; an anguished face in turquoise cries out to be left alone; in yet another portrait a mans distorted face fights to break out of its constraints of space. Using acrylics on paper, Afroze creates surfaces reminiscent of stained wood or stone. This sense of historical, primitive art is reinforced by the total avoidance of visible brush strokes, and by the use of warm earth tones and strong pigments. The use of gold staining and the rough lines of the faces evoke images of Byzantine art. The zig zag diagonals, the block forms and rough frames all reiterate the sense of rough wooden surfaces.

Browns and ochres are stained with bright turquoise or vibrant lapis. But despite the use of occasional bright colours, the images are essentially dark and brooding and, all in all outstandingly expressive.

The display could easily have slid into monotony, but avoids this pit fall as each portrait has its own highly individual character. And the overwhelming impression is of the human voice crying out through the ages.