KARACHI: Last year artist Ussman Ghouri’s untimely death from a heart attack, when he was barely in his early 40s, shocked artists and art lovers in Pakistan. He was a respected painter, sculptor and printmaker who had just begun to fulfil his potential. He would work on many projects simultaneously with the result that a lot of his artworks remained unfinished when he passed away. An exhibition titled ‘Ussman aur Mein’ commenced at the Koel Art Gallery on Thursday. The show contains works of 67 artists who either worked alongside Ussman Ghouri or knew him or had befriended him. They have in their own distinct styles, according to the gallery’s introduction to the exhibition, ‘added collaborative interpretations’ to the artist’s ‘precious beginnings’. The aim of the show is to ‘document and reinvent Ussman’s legacy’.
Artist Ahsan Jamal plays with the age-old idea of a tree (gadrung and screen print on paper) but encircles it to indicate nature’s remarkable ability to retell stories. Alia Bilgrami, too, goes for similar symbols; tree and fish (watercolour and multiple screen prints and text on handmade paper) with the difference that she brings in the element of fertility or the lack of it into her artwork. The fish can be construed in many other ways as well, because it appears in quite a few exhibits on display. It signifies creativity, wisdom and goodwill.
Amra Khan reddens the backdrop of the tree (oil paint and screen print on canvas and board) imparting variety to the subject, whereas Abdul Malik uses floating imageries with clouds and water (acrylic on canvas pasted on hardboard) touching on the bearable lightness of being.
Noorjehan Bilgrami pays her homage to the artist by putting (perhaps they were already there) the perennial questions ‘kyon, kahan’ (why, where) in an artwork titled Eternal Verses and paints a picture that creates a haunting scene. A few interpretations spring to mind: departure, the unseen world, the dark side of the creative realm.
Riffat Alvi dilutes the gravity of the subject by not using loud colours giving a floral feel to her work while Salman Hassan adds a lot of elements to his homage to Ussman Ghouri, including letters from the Persian language and some dotted lines.
All of this goes to show that Ussman Ghouri’s colleagues and friends remember him for his creativity, depth of knowledge and kind-heartedness that in this day and age is a rare combination. And yes, for his traditional values too, as painted by Mohan Daas.
The exhibition will continue till Dec 22.