KARACHI, May 13: When artists fuse art with literature and philosophy, one of their aims is to establish a connection between these disciplines. This notion is consolidated when one realises that the primary objective of artists and writers is to discover, chance upon or explore — depending where they position themselves — a balanced approach to life. Now herein lies the dilemma: a balanced approach to existence cannot be measured in concrete terms as it is, somewhat, an intangible reality. And this is where the task of art, literature and philosophy becomes all the more interesting.

An exhibition of the latest body of work by Faiza Shaikh titled ‘Tolerance’, which opened at the V.M. Art Gallery on Monday, sets its sights on finding ways to achieve tolerance in society, hence that elusive pursuit of striking the right balance.

Ms Shaikh, like every artist, seems to be perturbed by the utter chaos that society is enveloped in. So she looks back at what the Sufis have taught us. Her inspiration is Rumi and some other oriental spiritual leaders and understandably so. Rumi speaks of nothing but love and through that pure love emanates the message of peace, tolerance and acceptance.

The first exhibit on display is done in charcoal and oil-on-canvas and has a couple of whirling dervishes whose faces are not visible. It is a distinct piece because the rest of the dervishes that the artist has painted are marked by vibrant colours, which, according to her, exude a positive feel.

The artist has an optimistic outlook on life, and it is because of this that she finds nirvana in Sufi ideals. But it is not just tolerance and peace that the exhibition is all about; the viewer can easily detect an element of celebration, of jashn, in her artworks. This should not be construed as idealistic light-heartedness. What the artist is striving to convey is that the message of tolerance is inextricably attached to contentment of the soul, hence to celebration of life.

The use of the text alongside images, thick strokes and vibrant colours is quite effective in the sense that in the case of some other artists it comes across as an afterthought; but with respect to ‘Tolerance’ it is as integral as they come.

The exhibition will continue till May 30.

Updated May 14, 2013 08:25am

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