In the opinion of some art experts, making portraits is a relatively easy undertaking than, let’s say, adopting some of those forms which fall into the category of abstraction. This may not be true. To depict, to a reasonable degree of accuracy, what’s going on an emotional level in a particular human being, the best way to do is to draw his/her face. The artists’ success depends on their sense of observation and the ability to understand the subject’s feelings at a certain point in time. In that respect, Farazeh Syed’s exhibition of her oil-on-canvas, charcoal and ink work titled ‘Portraits’ at the Unicorn Gallery, Karachi was a worthwhile endeavour.
Syed has had a pretty diverse learning curve. She’s been to the famed National College of Arts, Lahore, and honed her skills. Then she went to the Gandhara Institute, Islamabad, to study printmaking, after which she joined the Parsons School of Design and Art Students League. Perhaps the most interesting part of her learning, though she may not concur with it, is that she worked as an apprentice to the renowned Pakistani artist Iqbal Hussain.
This last bit of information is important. Looking at the portraits that Syed has done do point to the fact that she’s inspired by Hussain, and there’s nothing wrong with it. The significant thing is that Syed has tried to carve her own niche in that realm. For instance, ‘Shabana’ (oil on canvas) has a distinct touch. The redness of the girl’s attire is played against a red backdrop as well as the carpet underneath her feet with a similar shade. This has all the makings of a strange picture. Not so. The artist has intelligently striven to convey the symbolic meaning(s) of the colour red.
The charcoal and ink portraits break the visual sameness of the exhibition. The exhibits speak volumes for Syed’s bright future. The ‘Noori’ series (ink), along with a noteworthy charcoal piece titled, ‘Arooj’, go on to show how closely she views her subjects. It’s not just the faces that she diligently studies, but also the postures that are such an important aspect of a human being’s physical existence. Postures say it all: confidence, fear, doubt, brittleness, feebleness etc., and Farazeh Syed knows that very well.