While the pressure builds and falls under the prevalent milieu of precarious socio-political events, the observant and the committed artists continue to express their solemn response. Most of the time, these impulsive reactions are spontaneous and result in imposing works which leave a lasting impression.
The Canvas Art Gallery, Karachi, has once again brought a rich variety of works from the heart of the province titled, ‘News from Sindh-2’, a sequel to its previous serial. The gallery’s unswerving objective is to give exposure to devoted students who have studied in urban areas but have chosen to return to their rural roots. The show is based on works of four such young artists from interior Sindh who are alumni of the National College of Arts, Lahore.
Exuding raw talent in the dexterity of his line, Abdul Malik Channa, in his work titled, ‘Roti, kapra aur makaan’, in pencil and tea wash on paper, represents the ideals of a few with bluntness and clarity. A plain simple house, a simple dress and a half-eaten loaf of bread, draws one’s attention to the disturbing reality that basic human needs are not made available to all. Calling himself a ‘realist’ and dedicated to presenting the truth, Channa, with his simple compositions, captures the senses. However, he needs to explore further and probe deeper to reveal the obscure. Channa paints with exactness and a soul that is naïve, yet outspoken.
Arif Hussain Khokhar, with his richly textured graphite and coloured pencil works, endeavours to illustrate the growing encroachment of western influence on the current society. ‘East and West’, one of Khokar’s works, shows a hybrid of jeans and a shalwar with a belt through the loop, representing the fusion of two opposing cultures. Paradoxically, it is both an uplifting, yet restricting experience, depicting opportunities that may exist but cannot be grasped. The artist has tried to create a ‘social and visual communication’ through the use of basic components; however, given his excellent skills, he needs to diversify his subjects to strengthen the message.
Using an untamed and natural hand, Zahid Hussain Soomro boldly investigates and questions the current issues, embodied by spaces, impeccably composed black and white silhouettes which convey the meaning of comradeship and harmony. The work entitled ‘Jinnah-1’, executed on paper in permanent markers, relies on the convolution of the patiently rendered indecipherable lines to portray a profile of the Quaid, in a way that confronts the observer to question the confusion present, within and around us. Another similarly executed painting titled ‘Dil’ depicts numerous overlapping outlined hearts which the artist attributes to the need for humanity to be more compassionate. Soomro’s work across the four canvases was albeit consistent, but some addition of depth through insistent exploitation of the chosen medium and a shift in palette could offset the evident vacuum.
Nizam Dahiri’s work is reminiscent of the Op Art, the pre-minimal era of the 60’s, which gives the impression of a colour registration error during the process of printing. Inherent with parallax and aberration, his subjects appear almost three-dimensional or stereo-graphic, thereby forcing the observer to reassess and reform the image in their mind. The artist has, perhaps, aimed to trigger this very reformation within the spectator’s thoughts.
In his paintings of ‘Flag’ and ‘Supreme Court’ the artist has used colours to wobble the images into a double print, probably to depict the vague socio-political environment, which is so rampant with perfidy and injustice, that one cannot truly focus on the real picture. The artist has adhered to limited probabilities and palette which creates a nominal impact owing to the recurrent technique. Perhaps it is time for Dahiri to venture into the larger territory of aggressive experimentation to give his vision a greater meaning.
Once again, emerging talent from interior Sindh has produced works that qualify for comment; but in terms of subject matter, the artists need to expand their horizons to a more global standard. That, incidentally, can only be achieved through perseverance and further enriching experience to add layers of depth to the nakedness of the works. An artist must, first and foremost, remain true to his ideals and beliefs in order to present them with the clarity and coherence they deserve.