AUTHOR: ZAHRAH NASIR
The current exhibition of pantings by renowned artist, Meher Afroz, at Chawkandi Art Gallery, Clifton, is well worth dropping in on for those with an experience in mind.The 26 exhibits, collectively titled Niche Series, represent over one years hard work for an artist who is growing from strength to strength with the passage of time.
Other artists may stymie, go stale or simply get stuck in a conservative rut with sales targets as their main aim in life but not so Meher whose mythologically expressionistic work is far from the mainstream of the commercial crowd.
This is not to say that the artist`s work doesnt sell, it most certainly does and enthusiastic purchasers had already placed orders for her latest work at least one week prior to the opening night.
Niche Series encompasses a fascinating range of extremely tactile acrylic paintings, painstakingly executed on wood through an amazing variety of highly emotive methods and imagery.
The overall effect of the pieces immediately conjures an illusion to antiquated Russian icons to mind but, on closer inspection, it becomes apparent that this is not a realistic comparison at all. Mehers work is far too different for such simple analogies to be applicable. The Niche Series is a natural progression from her two previous landmark exhibitions. Masks and Puppets (1987) and Amulel Series (1994).
Masks and Puppets concentrated on the way humankind often hides personal truths behind more socially acceptable masks, different ones for different occasions and depicted people merely as puppets dancing to dictated tunes. The memorable Amulet Series was shaped by the artists perception of the changing system of values, leading to spiritual bankruptcy of a type she feels is fast becoming predominant in this modern world.
Now, three years later, Mehers work expresses the fact that she is continuing to delve into her own sub consciousness and into a sense of historical perspective in an unquenchable thirst for knowledge and truth.
Working through layer upon layer of harmonious colours, no doubt blistering her sensitive fingers badly in the process, she has skilfully created cosmic illusions, timeless and weightless which encourages the spirit to soar free even if the body itself has limited access to freedom of with upward or outward mobility.
The intricately worked wooden panels, (Lasani wood for those who are interested), often appear to be rather overcrowded with fine detail but if one takes the time to scrutinise them microscopically then it becomes clear that each depiction, be it a person, a deeply etched line, a tree or whatever, all have a complementary role to play in the final momentous result.
Anguish, tenseness, pensiveness, longing and wonder all find a responsive echo in the faces and figures, largely female, central to the theme running like an elusive thread through, across, and up and down the intriguing imagery used by this master crafts lady.
Mythological overtones creep in here and there, hearkening the viewer backwards towards a tantalising taste of the subcontinents ancient and not so ancient history. A simplistic walking sun, such as a child may draw, outlines of stylised fish for good luck and linear land and sky capes tease the imagination and heighten the perceptive senses, provoking complex thought patterns more usually glossed over.
The juxtaposition of four, possibly window panes, in the lower section of one panel, one containing a sun, another a crescent moon, a third a face and a fourth a figure, each in the delicate yellows and greens of a spring day, uphold a midnight blue universe with yet another sun or planet, stars and streaks of light suggesting the global beauty and fantasy which is cosmic nature.
Wherever one looks there is always the sun, always natural elements and always a pointer towards viewing our mystical world as a whole. Even the borders of the paintings have been worked, etched and scratched through numerous layers of colour to either plainly show, or abstractly hint at, the layers of life coexistent at the exact same moment in time and space.
Mehers present work jolts viewers out of their complacency and offers a unique insight into a world we really dont know at all! The exhibition runs from March 11th to March 20th at Chawkandi Art Gallery.