DATED: 15 APR 2008

Chawkandi Art Gallery reception on the tagig of an exhibition of paintings by Meher Afroz and Mussarat Mirza on 15th April 2008. lt sounds like yesterday when the two artists appeared together at Chawkandi in November I999; but their artworks tell a different story. Over the passage of nine years Meher Afroz has gained substance in thought and content, which elevates her paintings to a level of universality. She has developed a vocabulary which raises her work beyond gender. Her works are surely a collector and investors item.

Mussarat Mirza, who is an incarnation of Bronte sisters, placed in the dust and aloofness of repressive society of Sukker, has added colour and texture to the works which were like shadows and passing waves of wind in the past. Sandy dust on Mirzas canvases has subdued and one can see colours and figures and architecture of Sukker taking shape instead.

The two senior and established artists are spiritually inspired. Meher also gets her inspirations from Urdu classical poetry. Mehers works address varied audiences according to their personal concerns. She paints canvases with stringed nails with reference to the tragedy of Karbala; but to some viewers these renditions become happenings of the heart; the pricks received by ones own dear and near ones. ln a dark situation she introduces a rose as a symbol of hope. Her highly intellectual paintings do not rest on a palette with bright colour, nor do they take solace from feminine issues. Petty stories based on day to day bickering were never a part of her thought process. lt is their expression in colour and form which has gone through a revolutionary process. Her renditions are pure and simple artworks for all times to come. Her drawing abilities and experience as a printmaker also enhance her paintings technically.

ln 2001 at Chawkandi, Mehers 14 prints and 35 paintings titled `Zindan Series` were based on Metaphorical language. In the light of Rumi`s verses, some of the metaphors referred to her personal world of being alone and yet not lonely Being alone was a world in itself. Her painting in red and black with a woman lying alone in the vastness of the universe was holding a crescent with a thorny wire. That was Meher`s world- that was any womans world, in fact, that is any human beings world.

In 2005, again, at Chawkandi, Neher exhibited her Pindar series. The title suggested a continuity of her philosophy on her canvases. She explored the issue of Pindar – a contradiction to self-denial which is the kernel of Sufism. Pindar means self-esteem, ego and vanity. Meher explored the abstract idea of self esteem in terms of her past culture. Although the tool of culture could have provided her with sullicient motifs, she selected very few to convey her idea. Instead of taking the form away from a thing and presenting its abstract on canvas, as most of the artist do, Meher carved her individuality and gave form to an abstract idea.

Mehr elevated the subject to religious heights. Besides siding with the truth, it was the Pindar of the martyr of Islam- the grandson of our Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him), who gave away his life and the lives of his followers and kith and kin in the battlefield of Karbala. The war is still on and people are shedding their blood for the same reason on the same grounds. Meher chooses an aesthetical language to relate her stories. On the one hand there are nails, on the other, there are roses, and silver and gold linings. She says it with flowers. Nowhere one feels the loss of aesthetics.

Born in Lucknow, Meher graduated in Fine Arts from Government College of Arts and Crafts, Lucknow. She obtained her Art Masters Training Course from Lucknow Government Art College. She has served in the capacity of Senior Lecturer at the Central Institute of Arts and Crafts, Karachi and now is a teacher at Indus Valley School of Art. She won first prize in Graphics at National Art Exhibition.

Mussart Mirza, a Sukkur based artist, was a professor of fine arts at the University of jamshoro, Sindh. She started painting at an early age, a time when hardly any woman was seen outdoors in the area. She owes her artistic sensibilities to her father. Her father had a great appreciation of art and Mussart followed in his footsteps. Her mother wanted all her children to go into medical profession. She often told Mussart to do her intermediate again so that she could get admission in a medical college. Finding her irresponsive, she would taunt, “You want to please your father.” Mussart is all admiration for her father. She remembers him fondly and elevates him to the pedestal of a seer. Wth a pleasant personality and smiling face, unmarried Musaart says, “lf I had. come across somebody half the qualities of my father, I would have married him.”

As women were not allowed to go outdoors, Mussart painted her landscapes through her windows and from the terrace of her house.