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Portfolio: A firm connection

January 24, 2016



“Contemporary Art is mostly understood as ‘created by artists living today’ in response to the world around them, focusing on the technological advancements, and mostly shying away from ‘realistic representation of the human figure’ or so,” says the Getty Museum publication.

By this definition, R.M. Naeem’s work has found its own space in the world, without conforming to the ideals of what contemporary art should be. His technique is miniature — hardly a technical advancement in the general sense; there is an obsession with human figures, with a representation so intricate and detailed that it’s hard to miss anything. His recent exhibition at Koel Gallery, Karachi, titled “Affirm Connection” accompanied with a catalogue, simply goes on to adhere to that fact, in all the realistic glory of his work.

The body of work in itself is a commentary on the duality of the world around him, of the connections that one forms subconsciously based on factors as mundane as appearances or as surreal as the cosmic world in which we are placed.

R.M. Naeem approaches various themes in his own way while creating a niche in the art world

The exhibition starts with his work titled ‘Just up’ in which the artist is seen cocooned and ends with ‘Connected’ depicting him as Jesus, making the layout of the show such that it starts with Naeem and ends with him, too.

One of the most memorable pieces in the show, ‘One dozen’ reminds one of Ghulam Abbas’s short stories titled Overcoat. The work, divided into two halves, depict a man with an extravagant moustache, wearing a tie and coat, while his lower half dons a vest. He is shown holding eggs, the primary substance from which all life begins, fallen into his arms from heavens; portraying that one’s position is nothing more than an accident of fate.

‘Proud to be one ... 1’ is a play on the idea of how the world around us affects us, despite our reservations about it. A man donning a beard and a cloth cap, patterned with speech bubbles, directs one’s attention to the subtle humour and sarcasm which can be seen all around us.

One dozen
One dozen

Gaze and colours are also two interesting aspects of the show. The subjects wear three types of gaze; looking directly at their audience, meditating with eyes closed and head bowed, or looking up to the heavens — pleading. The colour and the visual treatment is what links every piece together in the most delicate manner. Monotony of grey is juxtaposed with just the right amount of colour, allowing for the details and the “greyness” of the subjects to come forth.

The only off thing about the exhibition seemed to be the video projection. It appeared to be an after-thought, sticking out like a sore thumb in the overall flow of the exhibition.

Naeem doesn’t conform to the expectations of contemporary art. He approaches various themes in his own way, creating a niche in the art world.

Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, January 24th, 2016