AUTHOR: MARJORIE HUSAIN
PUBLICATIONS: THE REVIEW – (P.28)
DATED: 26 MAR 1998
Contrasting moods are revealed in the exhibition by National Award- winning artist Anwar Shafi Khan at the Chawkandi Art Gallery, Karachi. Not surprising as diversity and experimentation are powerful factors on the artists agenda. Oils on canvas, acrylics and mixed media drawings reveal an artist in the process of analyzing his own aesthetic identity. His experience of art in two continents has convinced him that art now demands greater receptivity to ideas and form than ever before.
A set of drawings – visual quotations, – are worked in acrylic and ink. They move from chance gestures, agitated doodles, to detailed configurations placed against solid blocks of colour describing a School of Pahari miniature art.
Making the difficult transmutation from representational images separated from a whole, to abstraction where the painting is complete in itself, Anwar strives to retain his cultural identity as well as expanding it to encompass a global art idiom to suit his particular needs.
The continuation of the burqa and shamiana series, symmetrical columns, sometimes contrasted with bright parrot green and red areas of design, give way to a landscape series. As the artist begins to leave these specific references behind, the works open out into meditative landscapes. Large-scaled luminous works, they are the result of his analysis as to how painting functions within the contemporary art milieu. ln these sensual paintings, the artist disciplines his obvious enjoyment of hands-on painting, to apply with sensitivity numerous layers of transparent colour. Sombre and subdued at a quick glance, a detailed study by the viewer unveils the many colours engaged in creating a surface that radiates light from within.
A set of acrylic paintings on a smaller scale painted in pinks, pistachios, lemons and pale ochres are dubbed by the artist The Bath Island Pastels. He explains “its something to do with the light there.”
ln this airy series, there are architectural elements, arches and forms commanding a space of their own. Anwars exploration of space and form is uninhibited, drawing inspiration from the phenomena of the visible world.
Living by and for his art, Anwar Shafi devotes all his time to painting. Since his first exhibition at the Indus Gallery in 86, he has resolved many of his aesthetic problems, and created many more. His education encompassed a degree in English Literature from the Kenyon Gallery, U.S.A. in 84. Even then painting was a passion. Aware of con- temporary art development in America, he longed to be part of the exciting scene. He is appreciative of the attitude to art in the States where rooms are designed to show art pieces as a focal point rather than as a background to the sofa.
The artists paintings have earned him awards from the international Association of Art Critics Jury Show, Pans, 93, From the Fourth Asian Art Show, Fukuoka, Japan in 94, and a National Award from the 7th National Exhibition of Visual Arts, held in islamabad in 96.
Recently, Anwar sent his work for display at the gallery Martini, Honk Kong, in a group show that was well-received. There is the offer of a solo exhibition and, at a later stage, appointments in the States. Seeking recognition on an international level, Anwar Shafi is confident he has the ability to make it on his own terms through sheer hard work and talent.