As one enters the Tanzara Art Gallery in Islamabad there is an immediate surge of pleasure as one looks at eminent painter Wahab Jaffer’s work. There are 36 acrylic-on-canvas pieces here, along with 36 black ink drawings that contain intricately worked dreamlike forms.

When looking at a painting it is the composition and function of colour that are two of the most important factors in determining the subjective content of the said painting. The joint relation of colour-to-colour produces a phenomenon of a more mysterious order that is psychological. The artist possesses the skill and sensitivity to order to expand colour into the sphere of the surreal without losing creative ground. Colour inspires certain moods in us as viewers; it can awaken joy or inspire fear in equal measure.

In fact, when we as human beings experience the whole world visually, it comes to us through the realm of colour. Our entire being is nourished by it, hence this mystic quality of colour should likewise find expression in a work of art.

Wahab Jaffer’s world offers visual effects of melting colour against colour and creating textures and patterns. Even his black and white drawings are spectacular

In Jaffer’s paintings, colour is the most important element of composition; luminosity and brightness on the surface, and a bold and dauntless style, his identity exudes through these paintings where he successfully captures the moods of the women on his canvases. It is the female form that dominates the entire show, where the portrait is repeated on each canvas.

Although the features of Jaffer’s women are similar, the eyes are full of expression. The lines flow to become a shape, recurrently a bird. The bird in itself is a significant component of the painting; the bird may jump out of or fly over the face, or be part of the overall pattern of the painting. His world offers visual effects of melting colour against colour, layered in a way that creates textures and patterns. There are inclusive shades of blues, greens, yellows, reds and purple.

Black ink drawing (2)
Black ink drawing (2)

Jaffer paints with an immense amount of energy and freedom; his is a world of rhythm, of enigmatic and abstract images. The viewer must look for the underlying mystery in his colours as there is a feast of light and joy. An internal emotional force lies within each piece.

It was Picasso who painted his most famous black and white picture ‘Guernica’ where he stripped colour from the painting and returned to the monochrome mentality of cubism. At the Gallery, with its state of the art space and lighting, Jaffer’s black and white drawings are also viewed with enthusiasm.

The black and white drawings are breathtaking and are displayed alongside the colour filled canvases. Features, lines and geometric patterns all flow into and grow out of one another. Jaffer adds black lines and texture in place of colour forming surreal compositions. It is as if the artist is digging into the truth behind the pictures. They seem to bring a new dimension to the overall exhibition where delicacy and vibrancy are conspicuous factors.

He knows how to use colour to his advantage, and understands the power of colour on the viewer. He enhances his paintings with the appropriate subliminal message to capture the mood he desires to portray. Colours let us off lightly; black and white forces us to think.

Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, April 5th, 2015

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