Westward Hue


The eighties have seen the emergence of a new generation of artists who have lived and studied for long periods in the west. They are brimming with original ideas that have found expression in new mediums in their exhibit, in Pakistan.

Among this contemporary breed are Samina Mansuri Durriya Kazi, David Alesworth, Naiza Khan and Elizabeth Dadi. Exponents of prevailing art movements in the west, they have, through their personal vision and expertise, broken the established pattern. And their recent exhibition at the Ziggurat bore ample testimony to that.

Samina Mansuri, who has devoted eight years of study to her craft in New York, works on the time-honoured two dimensional surface but her surrealistic forms are hauntingly original. Pigment mixed with wax builds up the surface layer by layer into which the artist cuts, carves and etches to complement the texture of her images. The cactus fruit which dominates her iconography is symbolic of the survival of the species in a hostile environment. Fecundity and natures reproductive cycle are a consistent theme in Saminas work.

She feels she belongs to New York as much as to Karachi, for the experiences she has garnered from both places have become intrinsic to her work. “The work should be true to the artists experience,” she says. She believes that the contemporary third world artist, like writers in English from the former British colonies, is in the process of evolving a mode of expression that is not totally derived from western tradition nor does it carry too heavy a burden of indigenous values. lt is, like its creators, a product of the “new era.”

Naizas concerns are more personal. Brought up in England and educated at Oxford, this printmaker finds herself culturally rootless. “At the end of the day – you dont belong anywhere,” she says. “Your roots are within you.” Her display of work at the Ziggurat consisted of emotive linear images in copper etchings and woodcuts completed earlier in England to which recently executed monochromatic etchings, drawings and mixed media collages were added. In her collages, the fusion of photographs, note book pages and evocative textures conveys the multi-faceted personality of a woman who can contain within her all emotions and all relationships. An accomplished printmaker as well, Naiza likes to express herself in cross-media so she can approach her theme from different vantage points.

Durriya Kazi, a sculptor trained at the Kingston Polytechnic in England, maintains a tenacious bond with her cultural heritage. She borrows from the Islamic arts and sub continental classical sculpture to build a personal vocabulary of creative expression. “l have always tried to avoid textbook traditions because I have never felt that they were my traditions,” she says emphatically.

David and Elizabeth have arrived at our shores with their Pakistani spouses. Both serious sculptors, they employ a grammar enriched by the artistic traditions of their respective countries. Elizabeth Dadi is a minimalist, but since her last show in 1992, her forms seem to have been influenced by the vibrant spirit of the local decorative culture.

The steel sculptures by David have a strong and compelling presence. His images are about space, as it moves freely in and out of the open sculpture making his material look deceptively lightweight. A sense of spontaneity is apparent in the work. Often whimsical the linear forms are redolent of Paul Klee taking his line for a walk.

Young artists have much to learn from this defiantly avant garde exhibition. Naiza and Durriya in particular, have made uninhibited use of diverse material, indicating to budding artists wary of parallel techniques that it is acceptable to work in cross media.

“We share similar sensibilities,” says Durriya of the group show participants, and this is perhaps why the exhibition appears so visually harmonious.