Prints And Ceramics From Lahore

DATED: 30 NOV 1995

An intriguing exhibition of prints and ceramics is currently underway at Chawkandi Art Gallery in Clifton. On display are the works of two prominent Lahore artists, Afshar Malik and Anwar Saeed. The exhibits are quite thought- provoking, stretching the viewers visual capacity to the limit.

With three solo and numerous group exhibitions – both in Pakistan and overseas – to his credit, Afshar Malik, Assistant Professor of Print Making at the National College of Arts, Lahore, has, for the first time, included a few ceramic pieces in this show.

A soft-spoken yet intense person, Afshar says of his ceramics, “I like clay. There is no challenge like the one a lump of clay offers. I create my own tools and sometimes use match sticks, buttons, anything that will make an impression on clay”.

The 16 ceramic pieces, ranging in price from Rs 699 to Rs 4,500 with titles such as Editors Breakfast, Life and Death Play II and Elephant Memory, are largely purely ornamental objects with the occasional wall mounted item for good measure. Very contemporary in form, the figures resemble alien beings rather than humans, and each intricately worked piece has a tactile allure all of its own.

“There is so much to learn about ceramics,” Afshar continued.” At the moment I have barely scratched the surface but intend to experiment and learn as I go along. Eventually, when I have my own kiln, I shall create much larger works but for the moment I am only making small pieces. Im not quite sure which direction I will finally move in. Only time will tell.”

Well known for his print work, Afshar has garnered quite a large following since his first exhibition in 1989 and those that have been to his shows should not be disappointed this time around either.

The 26 etchings on display basically fall into two distinct categories, one being highly complex and stylised, the other much more simple and free flowing. The incredibly intricate details of colourful prints such as Quote Unquote, River Story I and II and Mating Season, plus the black and white Party Time bring to mind, at first glance that is, a Persian impression. However, this changes totally on closer inspection when one is a little startled to spot a train, a dish antenna or a cigarette packet.

“This is the culmination of three years work,” Afshar said. “I have tried to combine past and present as everyone is influenced by these two aspects of their life. Also, I have included the change in people and in the environment between the cities and the remote areas of the country. No longer do I use a sketchbook. I draw what I feel directly onto a zinc plate which is later coloured and printed. Each summer I trek into the hills, completely away from tourist areas and really enjoy working in the field.”

Miniature cities, flowing rivers, floating people, cats and finely wrought trees, feathery plants and minutely detailed carpets of flowers are interspersed, or overridden by an incongruous item such as a sideboard containing a TV set, a coffee pot and a toy.

The juxtaposition of everyday items with dream like scenery ensures that no matter how long one studies the picture, the eye is pulled to something new.

Of the simpler prints, finished in less vivid, more earthy tones, Afshar said, “I think they are a reaction or a release from my more intricate and exhausting work. These were really fun to do.” The prices of Afshars prints range from Rs 3,000 to Rs 15,000 and on the opening night last week quite a few had already been sold.

The 15 photo etchings by Anwar Saeed provide a sharp contrast to his co-exhibitionist work. With six solo and 15 group exhibitions, held at various places, ranging from Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad to California, London, Egypt and Jordan, Anwar Saeed is no stranger to the art world.

A master of this particular technique, Anwar has divided each of his collage compositions into two sections representing heaven and earth and come up with some very interesting results.

Working mostly in sepia or hot tones he manages to pull together such diverse images as a handprint, a nuclear explosion, the crucifixion, calligraphy and Gandhara artifacts to formulate intensely emotional pieces of work.

“Each print tells its own story,” he said. “The subcontinent has a long history of storytelling in the form of painting, dance, poetry etc. I am following this tradition in my work and making a story for people to interpret in their own way”.

Time, in the form of numbers, a watch or a clock also comes into play in many of Anwars exhibits.

The prints follow a similar theme, and time is an important part of life, therefore, an important part of any story,” he explained. “Time is a fascinating subject”.

Prices range from Rs 4,000 to Rs 5,500 and up to six differently coloured prints are available of each of these exhibits.

It is heartening to see that more and more Lahore- based artists and sculptors are coming with their objects dart to Karachi, a city which has always been appreciative of good work, wherever it comes from.