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Art fiend: The melting pot

November 10, 2013

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An exhibition titled, ‘Melting into Us’ shown at the Unicorn Gallery, Karachi, introduces the work of an extremely gifted young contemporary artist who is also an engaging writer. Sharing the show with the very talented artist Dua Abbas, Rajab Ali Sayed explores themes of shifting relationships in a tone that expresses the haunting connections and the drama of the observer with the observed.

Sayed paints in an intimate style that links his life with his art. With a confident use of light and colour, he creates paintings that are extremely atmospheric while expressing the nostalgia of an inner dialogue expressed through the company of friends.

The artist is an articulate lively young man who talked of his admiration for the paintings of Edward Hopper. He shared the complexities of the work involved in the striking painting ‘Blue velvet’ inspired by David Lynch’s film.

In his paintings he portrays himself with groups of close friends in different situations as chatting or partying and then captures those moments in time. In his favourite painting, ‘Melting into us’, he recalls a party at his studio, when he and friends rested for a moment, heaped together on a mattress, while the illumination appearing to emerge from a pillow, echoes the flash of a photo shoot. A remarkable painting that held one enthralled. In many of the masterly paintings, one had the feeling one could just step into the canvas and join the conversation.

Sayed quotes in his profile the writer, J.M.Barrie: “You know that place between sleeping and awake, that place where you can still remember dreaming? That’s where I will always think of you.”

He graduated from the National College of Arts (NCA), Lahore, in 2013 with a Distinction in fine art, presenting an interdisciplinary thesis project in painting, video installation and photography titled, ‘Pretty young things’. He has also studied intensive printmaking and photography at the NCA and Augustan College (USA).

The beautiful ‘Pre-Raphaelite’ style of portraiture in Abbas’s paintings was created with the interesting medium of pastel on paper and it appears the artist rejoices in the sensuous portrayal of colour and texture that imbibe the subject with grace. The artist’s art is evocative and romantic, with shades, gestures and patterns playing important roles. The exquisitely — patterned work appears infused with a beauty which the audience finds accessible and enchanting.

The artist majored in painting from the NCA and graduated with a Distinction in 2009. She has participated in several exhibitions in Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad, Dubai and Delhi. She is a recipient of the Shakir Ali Award (NCA 2009), Sir Percy Brown Prize and Principal’s Honours Award.

She states, “My work leading up to this series has been a celebration of the magic and elusiveness of the female form … In my recent work, I have been exploring the roles allotted to females in myths and folklore … The systematic truncation of feminine roles has been even more drastic in our iconoclastic culture and religion. This has made me look to the past all the more in search of settings in which to place my protagonists.”

“Pagan and Medieval Christian backdrops appeal to me, especially, because females were still part of the iconographies of those times; they wielded mysterious powers, they had vestiges of divinity, miracles were associated with them. These works are my attempt at reclaiming those times, and the romance that defines them …” adds Abbas.