Being, Annem Zaidi
Being, Annem Zaidi

The Classical period, sometimes called the Hellenic period, in Ancient Greece, has deeply influenced Western civilisation in politics, literature, philosophy, and architecture. It was during this point in art history that fabric itself became an art form, and a measure of the skill of an artist. Drapery became the framework for accentuating the voluptuous anatomy of the human form. Masters, such as Leonardo da Vinci, was famous for his numerous observational studies on fabric, including its perspective and value. He would meticulously examine how light and shadow fall.

In addition to da Vinci, draped fabric found its way back into artwork as a mark of extreme skill and craftsmanship. Post Renaissance, drapery and fabric continued to play a role in art through the next 100 years. Contemporary studies of fabric are still carried out, while fabric is a frequent component of drawings and paintings.

Recently a group show titled Fabric, featuring contemporary artists, which include Annem Zaidi, Ayesha Khan, Scheherzade Junejo, Babar Mogul and Hassan Shah Gillani, took place at My Art World, an online gallery in Islamabad. The show was curated by Zara Sajid and Scheherzade Junejo.

Artists have absorbed artistic tradition and outside influences, reinterpreting them in inventive ways

These artists have revealed their intentions most fully and have expressed themselves deeply, in the way they handle parts of their respective paintings that are most easily overlooked. The underlying prevailing spirit of each painting by the artists is that their dominant mood can drastically change when the viewer notices a single detail that had perhaps previously escaped his / her attention.

Zaidi’s classic canvases, ‘Being’ and ‘Reversion’ evade the viewer’s attention because of their haunting characteristics. The flow of the drapery against the black background is so integral to her paintings’ construction that the subtle hint of female form is a pleasant addition. It is obvious that the artist is inspired by the old masters and their technique of glazing, which creates an extraordinary luminosity in her paintings.

Junejo’s single oil on canvas, ‘The entropy of identity’, is a clear trait of human behaviour through posture, stance, and shape. Other than the countenance of the female form which has been painted in shades of grey, the cerulean blue in the adorned fabric attracts a bystander’s attention. The figure is seemingly lascivious yet comfortably poised, the ethereal tones of grey are charmingly painted yet the enveloped fabric relinquishes mystery.

Fabric, Hassan Shah Gillani
Fabric, Hassan Shah Gillani

Khan who has also displayed a distinct painting, titled ‘Night in shiny armour’, consolidates two schools of thought together: surrealism with realism. Dreams and reality combine to generate an unbridled and representational imagination of the subconscious.

Moghal, who is trained as a graphic designer, found his calling in painting. His poignant depiction of the full female form in ‘Adagio’ and ‘Daybreak’ contain an enigmatic paradox. His main foundation of creativeness is music. His figures are clothed in some sort of cloth, so much so that the drapery itself has become an integral part of the painting. Malleable, open and inviting, the fall of material in both pieces pays homage to artistic invention of painting drapery.

Gillani is the only artist whose tiny diptych has been rendered in painstaking detail using pencil. The minimalistic pieces stress on the quality of line and tone, and there is a suggestion of classical drapery.

All the artists have absorbed artistic tradition and outside influences in this exhibition and have reinterpreted them in innovative ways.

Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, May 1st, 2016