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Art for every palette

August 10, 2014

ISLAMABAD: A-visible, a group exhibition, was inaugurated by High Commissioner of Australia, Peter Heyward and Mrs. Susan Heyward, at the Satrang Gallery at Serena Hotel.

Asma Khan, Director of Satrang, said, “A-visible is about us - our ostentations, our sense of security as well as our intellectual concerns in the pursuit of knowledge and truth.

“The three talented artists convey their observations through their sculptures, miniatures and mixed media paintings. Within their sophisticated and mature work, their visuals achieve a vibrancy that envelopes the viewer.”

The three artists, Amna Ilyas, Heraa Khan and Maha Ahmed, each with a very distinct style, have chosen to comment on socially relevant issues which beset Pakistani society.

Amna Ilyas displayed Perspex sculptures depicting mainly clear books.

She says: “In these recent works, the aspect of language is explored which takes plunge into a philosophical debate over the existence of objects and the dynamics of visibility.

We are aware that how the whole process of knowledge is part of a large act of power that creates an illusion of truth that is ephemeral and transitory but does not match with the truth.

“Using Perspex amplifies the ‘plastic’ aspect of words and perhaps authority even. These works also coincide with childhood and the learning schooling aspect of our lives. These empty books cannot communicate except the verbal noise (which surrounds us) that is no more than an exercise in rhetoric.”

The books are created in transparent or opaque plastics, to substitute the whiteness of the paper.

In these open books, one comes across pages on both sides, with either words etched on to the surface or straight lines or just hollow spaces.

Maha Ahmad, with her existentially dark paintings, says: “Having grown up in a developing country like Pakistan has had a tremendous influence in the kind of work I create. Due to the insurgency of terrorism and deteriorating national security, Pakistanis today, hide under this false pretense of safety, which ubiquitously paralyses our ability to distinguish security and insecurity.”

Tracing the inception of this series of work to her mother’s stories of the 1971 war, when windows were blacked out for protection, she adds, “The work I create builds upon those nuances by employing abstractions, directing emphasis on the mood and ambience in spaces.

“The symbolism I am currently exploring is that of a black cloth/paper and how it is used to cover glass on doors and windows to protect one from external harm and interference. I make an effort to talk about how we choose to ignore and stay indifferent to these daily injustices that we go through in the name of security.”

Hidden in her black spaces, we can almost discern female forms. Heraa Khan, a young woman from Lahore, has chosen to comment on the “social butterfly” existence of a particular niche in Pakistani society.

She says, “Growing up in the provincial metropolis, Lahore, a modern, happening city, one invariably comes across a certain segment of the society that is highly status conscious. Making its way to the elite cliques, social calendars and fashion houses appears to be the primary concern of this society.

“I am struck by the constraints of this society that apparently enjoys a luxurious lifestyle yet seem so remote from the basic sources of pleasure a society that has encased itself in a lifestyle that is a mere bubble, delusional and distant from reality.”

Susan Heyward said: “Heraa is obviously a skillful portraitist as one can see the personalities of her subjects shining through.”

Heraa has emphasized bright colours, patterns and different postures in her work as a comment on consumerist lifestyles. Particularly sweet were the miniaturist portraits of older women holding teacups, which evoked a sense of recognition for the Pakistani viewer.

Professor Dr Saeeda Asadullah Khan said: “The work is very nice and the young artists are attempting something new. The studies in black and white in particular are very different and interesting.”

Mamoona Riaz, a teacher at the National College of Arts, said: “A-visible moves with the sophistication and maturity of concepts with a sense of visual balance. Satrang’s venture of providing a platform to showcase art even in the upheaval surrounding us in Pakistan is an immense contribution to culture.”

Despite the blocked roads and petrol shortage, there were dozens of art aficionados attending the opening.

Dhoofishan Raza Naushahi said: “This show depicts how the thought process of young Pakistani artists has evolved and Maha Ahmad’s work in particular stands out in its creativity.”

Published in Dawn, August 10th, 2014