Pop art: Warp and weft

December 21, 2014


Oval, Ghulam Hussain
Oval, Ghulam Hussain

Pattern and Decoration (P and D) is the name of an art movement that had its moment of distinction in the post-modern pluralism of the 1970s and 1980s. The P and D aesthetic has been variously described as emotional, humanist, flamboyant, spiritual, fanciful, funky, vernacular and populist. It was folksy and politically conscious. The works were humorous and played with pastiche but not parody. Gender didn’t create boundaries; the movement’s men drew heavily upon so-called women’s work.

Two prominent examples of this movement are Kim MacConnel, an American artist who made furniture that he exhibited alongside his tapestries. Robert Kushner another American contemporary artist used fabric collage on large scales and used organic representational elements with abstracted geometric forms.

A similar experience was recently encountered at a two-person show at the Satrang Gallery in Islamabad, featuring the work of Lahore-based artist Ghulam Hussain and Karachi-based Imrana Tanveer. Curated by Zahra Khan, the show titled “Crossed Wires” is on the lines of the P and D movement giving prominence to design and interlacing patterns.

The two-artist show presented a visually complementary fusion using Pattern and Decoration aesthetics

Traditionally, the art of weaving is encapsulated within human beings and its chronicled capacity has been highlighted within this show.

Both Hussain and Tanveer accentuate the exquisiteness of this art form in their respective imagery. Although both artists connect distinctive traditions of workmanship and virtuosity, perceivably their artworks are uniquely different from one another.

Hussain’s work revolves around childhood memories. As a trained miniaturist he opts to experiment with the genre by combining his knowledge of weaving with miniature painting. There is simplicity in his work, which is both intriguing and thought-provoking. His work deals with the idea of craft and inspired by children’s drawings, Hussain constructs his images in the form of a pattern weaved through, in paper. Basic shapes such as triangles, circles and ovals, horizontal and vertical lines are fascinating components within his work. This combination transforms complicated hand-woven wasli’s into remarkable compositions, which kindle the viewer’s imagination.

Tanveer’s work is socio-political as compared to Hussain’s minimalistic portrayal. Her work assimilates textile design and weaving along with iconic images from the Western and local art culture in order to address certain issues. Rich in imagery, her work draws the viewer in through the compositional assortment of the subjects she addresses. Glocal (global and local) visuals, elements and cultures are integral characteristics of her work. There is a conspicuous appearance of European Masters within the imagery, whereby drapery and clothes without any bodies are evident too.

The artist is shedding light on an undeniable context, about how people especially women are classified according to their attire. Investigating emotions, Tanveer represents the paradigm of hubbub through her “Roses” series. By constructing and deconstructing these elements their meanings change and are understood in an entirely different milieu.

The collaboration between Hussain and Tanveer could be termed as poetic where the work may visually be dissimilar from each other, but the combination together forms a visually complementary fusion.

Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, December 21st, 2014