Rise And Fall


In the works of the two painters exhibiting at Chawkandi Art and the Indus Gallery, the centre stage seems to be occupied by the theme of how to handle age. Wahab Jaffer is in his mid-fifties, and F.N. Souza is a sprightly near- seventy. Wahab, who began to paint in his late thirties, has been growing in stature with his technique becoming more sophisticated over time. His present exhibition shows that he wants to try out new things, do something as bold as giving up colour for the anthropomorphosis power of paint. In his use of paint, Wahab has always been more of a materialist than Ahmed Pervaiz, who would paint as if levitating on a paradisiacal island of his own. Wahabs paint churns and swirls on the ground, while Ahmed Pervaizs becomes thin and atmospheric. Gravity anchors Wahab while Ahmed Pervaiz palpably demonstrates the falsity of Newtons law of movement. Age is apparently no problem for Wahab because he can walk on the ground and take occasional leaps into the air as a matter of course.

Besides the usual flower-and-vase theme, as much an imaginative insignia of Ahmed Pervaiz as of Wahabs fond respect for the artist, there are some very strange faces to be seen in the exhibition. They emerge from the ground of volatile paint like dark visitors from the past. Hitlers look-alike is there, as are harsh, cadaverous faces of stone staring at us from behind the veils of a new but painful dawn. As Wahab stirs and churns paint, thrown up from within are these faces whose “terror” remains at best oblique. There is no trace of Nordic hysteria in Wahabs faces.

This is not the first time that Wahab has tried faces. He has done many in colour, and two of them in particular, done fifteen years ago, were wonderful renditions of icon like images of strange bewitchment.

Wahab Jaffer, meanwhile, says that he is using grey in despair aroused by the situation prevailing in the city. The wonderful thing about creative art is that even though the painter wishes to express despair, paint celebrates control over it. All these faces were in colour and not in what is generally accepted as a neutral tone.

Grey is lovely like moonlight. lt is the colour of silver, a middle note between the waxing and the waning of the moon. It is the colour best suited to spirits and images which emerge from the womb of the earth. lt is the colour of truth though not the truth of the sun. The colour of the twilight and dawn, the death and birth of the sun, is the same. In this colour, hope and despair co-exist, lt is the colour in which even the sun finds rest. The colour is deep and inclusive of both yes and no, making that which is truth. l am not surprised that handling it the way Wahab does, that is libidinously, his despondency has found its image. Karachi, the city of light, which put on its solar masquerade at night and pretended that the sun would never set on it, must now recede into the night. This is the way the city will bare not only its own soul but the soul of the people inhabiting the land of the pure.

These paintings are a breakthrough in Wahabs art because before this he was concerned mostly with serendipity. Something deep must have troubled him to seek the wisdom of the grey and renouncing the wealth of colour may not have been very easy. Here is a painterly challenge to him to see and think better. ln his fifties, he can take any direction he chooses to and do justice to his own self. He has inherited an inexhaustible heritage from our ancestors, from prehistoric days to the end of time.