KARACHI: While writers’ efforts can get translated to reach a wider audience, visual artists have to speak in a language understood all over the world, said Rashid Rana at the launch of ‘Labyrinth of Reflections – the Art of Rashid Rana 1992-2012’ at the Mohatta Palace Museum on Tuesday evening.
In that context, Mr Rana cited the example of India where artists had integrated their works into malls so that people could get to see contemporary art. He emphasised the need for having out-of-the-box solutions to accomplish that goal.
He said there were 15 to 20 contemporary Pakistani artists who were showing a different image of Pakistan to the rest of the world. His show at the museum was just the beginning as far as raising awareness about contemporary art in Pakistan was concerned. Personally, he remarked, he could see all of his works in one space.
Mr Rana said dualities and paradoxes had been the recurrent themes throughout his career. “Polarity that exists in the country is the theme of our time,” he said, which was the reason that the viewer could see a chariot running next to a Mercedes-Benz in his works.
Earlier, he started off by suggesting that it was difficult to digest what was happening around him as one was conditioned to watching TV and listening to politicians such as Sheikh Rashid thinking change could only come through politicians. However, he said, he was delighted to see Sherry Rehman (who presided over the book launch) gracing the occasion because she was not a typical politician with a dupatta over her head.
He thanked the people who helped put together the exhibition of his artworks currently going on at the Mohatta Palace Museum. He mentioned the names of Nasreen Askari, Abdul Hamid Akhund and Hameed Haroon and said he couldn’t thank them enough. He also extended gratitude to his wife and members of his staff.
Pakistan’s former ambassador to the US Sherry Rehman said Rashid Rana’s works (the exhibition and the catalogue) were spectacular, challenging and provocative. It needed a post-modern French philosopher to speak about them. She said culture got a low priority in Pakistan and that ‘it goes abegging’. She gave credit to Hameed Haroon and trustees of the museum for putting up the show.
Ms Rehman said: “All of us value and understand the power of Rashid Rana’s work for it speaks about everyday issues and addresses the multiple lives that we lead.” She said he pushed the envelope not catering to the elegance of drawing room art. His art was at times difficult, and at times accessible. “It moves you, transforms you in one way or another,” she articulated and added the power of art to challenge dogma was unique.
Ms Rehman said Rashid Rana’s engagement with the mass media was an act of speaking in today’s language. She’s proud that Pakistani artists were selling internationally and their works were being admired. Today, all Pakistani artists could aspire to international stardom, she said.
Nazish Ataulllah, former principal of the National College of Arts Lahore, said in February 2013, a milestone was achieved in Pakistan contemporary art when Rashid Rana’s exhibition was opened at the museum. With the publication of the book, another milestone had been achieved, she added. It indisputably raised the bar in publishing of an art book in the country. She took many names who worked day in and day out to help the book see the light of day. She expressed her happiness that not only Rana’s works were being acknowledged out of the country but had also attracted the attention of home audience. Shedding light on the book she said it contained essays and commentaries written by acclaimed art critics.
Mohatta Palace Museum Director Nasreen Askari, who conducted the event, said Rashid Rana’s work was about the duality of good and evil that existed in our lives.
The launch was organised by the board of trustees of the Mohatta Palace Museum.