If we refuse to cease in our exploration, its only end will be our death. If we begin with a question, we explore and search for the answer. When we have the answer in hand, we return to the original question, and we arrive where we began and the world is new in that moment. A private viewing of Noorjehan Bilgrami’s work titled Pathway to the Inner Sanctum in Islamabad brings back a reliquary of memories of her former life in the city of Hyderabad, Deccan, in India. Her works are the musical notches of a memory from a distance, whose harmonious, recurring and poetic aspects are continuously performed.
A painter, textile designer, gallery owner, entrepreneur, curator, researcher, educationist and social activist; all these roles aptly define Bilgrami’s dynamic and multifaceted personality. Her current work remains principally like a narrative, a homecoming, an emotional journey that incites and enthuses the charting of painterly reminiscences. The Golconda Fort, the Qutub Shahi tombs and the joy of sitting under the molsri tree have been covered in the displayed paintings and prints, all palpable components contrasted with the lyrical understandings of a time, which simulated her cultural identity. Her visual compositions induce a strong and theatrical sense of an outlying place, a place which is very close to her heart.
Noorjehan Bilgrami is probing nostalgia in Pathway to the Inner Sanctum — nostalgia for bygone days, for the people close to her
While walking into the fantastic space, which hosted Bilgrami’s sequential pieces, the viewer is in awe of the energy and excitement within the room. The audience is captivated, enthralled and gripped by the spectacular pieces on display. Her oeuvre comes together, bringing forth images of family photographs, architectural images of Hyderabad, pictures of the molsri tree, all taken by the artist. Photo-etching, open-bite, aquatint, acrylic and graphite furbish her extraordinary pieces. Through her manifold adaptations, Bilgrami reconnoitres what it means to return artistically and emotionally to one’s original home. The artworks conduct her aesthetic and honourable trepidations. The experience feels like an evolution, concrete and transient, impressionable and fragile.
In ‘Memories dissolved’ a memorable despondency permeates the surface. The viewer is drawn to layers and layers of acrylic, graphite, and rice paper on arches paper. The medium of paper, at once the most evanescent, is suitable for delicateness of the venture. Through the dark layers there seems to be a certain philosophy behind the piece, an aesthetic value, expression and an object of beauty. It stands as an ambiguous slogan, an exploration of reality through a sensuous presentation.
In Molsri Ke Saaye Taley the artist seems to compile her lengthy expedition through life in pursuit of her kin and dwellings that classify them. Through her creative journey, she has found a way back to her home, the subject matter of the molsri tree, an essential feature from Bilgrami’s childhood.
Pathway to the Inner Sanctum is like a sentimental and poetic ballad, one that can only be contemplated through personal participation.
Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine May 15th, 2016