To reveal her vivid perception of ultimate enlightenment, London-based artist Faiza Sheikh has returned with a thought-provoking repertoire of 20 artworks titled, ‘Alchemy’ at the Canvas Art Gallery, Karachi. Pleasurable to view, the paintings ooze lively spirit through fresh hues, thoughtful compositions, intrepid graphic excursions and the unmistakable philosophical messages.
The dynamic painting techniques utilised on the canvases truly justify the exhibition’s title. The most striking feature of the works are the thriving rich textures that the artist has evolved over many years by resorting to unconventional use of pounded 24-carat gold and pure silver leafs, pigments and adhesives. The paintings are composed with elements ranging from tigers, elephants and horses to dervishes, monks and maidens executed boldly in impasto and layered pigments.
With her entire art training abroad, Sheikh paints philosophy, politics, poetry and economics with a candid approach. She is wary of the issues of urban existence and racial discrimination and of the disparities between the rich and the poor. As a consequence, her paintings present a quest for perfection which takes impetus from this world without depicting its context. The artist maintains a strong belief that a painting is not art unless it exudes a tangible message which in turn triggers a conversation or initiates a debate.
According to her, alchemy is the art of liberating parts of the cosmos from their temporary existence into achieving perfection. For materials it is a quest for transmuting base metals into gold, while for human beings; it is like brewing an elixir to prolong life indefinitely, a universal remedy. Incidentally, by giving the show a title, Sheikh does not intend to impose any boundaries to the interpretation of her paintings by the viewers. She believes that we all strive to identify the purpose of life and devote ourselves to something that advances humanity.
The artist chooses to live in her own world where she defines her own rules; where everything is perfect. Being obsessed with expression through art, she paints with devotion with the hope that her work displays solemn quest for the ultimate truth.
Sheikh’s paintings titled, ‘King of hearts’ and ‘Queen of diamonds’, oil on canvases with silver leaf, address the discussion of freewill versus destiny. She portrays the analogy that in life, as in a game of cards, we have to play the game of life with tact and diligence. Another painting titled, ‘Life’, carries the words of Rabindranath Tagore, inscribed in Bengali on a silver leaf inset amidst two vibrantly painted golden flowers, almost liquid, justifying the poet’s words which say, ‘It is the same life that shoots in joy through the dust of the earth in numberless blades of grass and breaks into tumultuous waves of leaves and flowers’.
The most fascinating feature of this canvas is the dominant scarlet background that emulates a velvety texture with a remarkably delightful sheen. The artist emphasises the commonality of essence behind the scripts that she appends on her canvases. Each one of these poems and extracts translate into human devotion and feeling; traits that lead to tolerance and enlightenment.
Sheikh intends to hold another exhibition during her stay in Pakistan, while towards the end of this year; she will be showcasing her works in Dubai followed by an exhibition in San Francisco. Her new works will comprise of digital prints based on photography finished with final application of oil paints, special pigments and precious metals that complement the theme.