AUTHOR: MARJORIE HUSAIN
Viewing the art of Mussarat Mirza- currently displayed at the Chawkandi Art, Karachi-is a totally absorbing experience in which the viewer becomes a participant in a potent and mysterious narrative abstraction. In the artists work one finds exquisite subtleties focused into the spatial exploration of colour. An untitled, small scaled diptych composition depicts a darkened room relieved by a square aperture suggesting a window. Lighter shades are reflected on the suggestion of a floor.
Exploring the painting without distraction. one discovers myriad suggestions of shades in the darkness, traces that we are not even sure are there-so subtle is the artist`s use of the medium. In other paintings one discerns forms but the artist is content to suggest the image rather than focus the figures into explicit representation. In Mirzas paintings, darkness is illuminated by areas of dazzling light.
As a child in Sukkur, Mirza painted the world around her from the windows or from rooftop of her house. She was fascinated by the changing moods of the atmosphere and the ensuing colours of her environment, a continuous element in her work. With her father, she would walk further afield into countrified areas of canals and explore the effects of sunlight on the natural world. In later years it appears she entered a world of the spirit, where colour appeared subdued but existent and unsuppressed under disciplined layers.
Studying the architectonic connotations of exterior views looking out over roofs of dwellings from a vantage height, there is an increasing sense of meeting urban and rural experience, and the certainty that transcends passing troubles; that the sun will set and rise again. In Mirzas paintings the skies are streaked with incandescent shades of rose, an optimistic sign that lightens the grey haze left by the dust of the day.
The artist integrates structures of art making and the linking of traditional connections to cultural history. Deeply affected by the anguish caused to the vulnerable people of her area by natures turbulence, Mirza transcends the obvious in a true Sufi influenced philosophy.
These are paintings that suggest the vast spaces found in Sindh, views painted in translucent layers that seem to embody the depth and textures of the earth and the sky around her. One discovers narrow lanes guiding one to light. In a reminiscent mood she paints impressions of delicately rendered countryside, where trees are reflected in water, a memory of childhood and times past. In Mirzas work a singular vocabulary of infinitesimal hues, are a signature aspect of the artists work; hers is a quiet voice, yet it has the clarity to reach the most inaccessible depth of ones inner being.
The artist, whose first exhibition was held in Karachi in 1968, has a wide experience of participation in International art events abroad. Since her retirement as professor of fine art from Sindh University, Mirza has represented Pakistan in several prestigious art events, but her deepest involvement has been her interest in revitalising the arts and crafts of her hometown. There she runs an active studio-cum-gallery, where selected students are taught and practice art.