Pieces of potpourri

Published June 14, 2016
Unseen motion by Arsalan Naqvi /
Unseen motion by Arsalan Naqvi /

KARACHI: A group show of a little fewer than 80 artworks titled Potpourri XXVI is under way at the Art Chowk Gallery. The exhibition allows the viewer to understand the contemporary trends in art. This does not mean that traditional forms of paintings and metalwork are not on view; they are very much there. In general, the displayed works delineate contemporariness, both in art practice and content search.

Let’s begin with Asif Ahmed’s ‘Similarities and differences’ (gouache on wasli paper). The connection between a face and its skull is incisive.

The immediate question that pops into the viewer’s mind is whether it’s the same facial skeleton as is being suggested in the image, because the only thing that suggests it, is the orderly manner in which the two parts, despite having a considerable gap, are joined — a bit like the way we tie our shoes.

Koo ooo by Saba Qayoom
Koo ooo by Saba Qayoom

‘Candle’ (oil on canvas) by Arif Hussain has no such ambiguity. But even in its unambiguous state, the artwork is layered with meaning. The giant candle and its shadow are a haunting sight. Why? Answer: for some odd reason the painting depicts the kind of a deafening silence that can sometimes be heard in dreams (or nightmares). It is largely the light blue background, playing second fiddle to the image-and-shadow game, which adds auditory value to the otherwise static visuals.

Saba Qayoom in an interesting illustration of a train in motion (oil on canvas) uses the phrase ‘Koo ooo’ as its title. The obvious inference is: it is the sound that a moving train makes. Not entirely true.

Asif Ahmed’s Similarities and differences
Asif Ahmed’s Similarities and differences

The dark smoke coming out of its engine is imminent, which is contrasted with the fertility of the ground and the colour of the locomotive. Hence the extended, long vowel in the title.

Abdul Hameed’s portrayal of the old parts of cities of Peshawar and Lahore introduces nostalgia as a subject in the exhibition. The aesthetic element of his journey to the past turns remembrance into longing. Successfully.

The show will continue till June 21.

Published in Dawn, June 14th, 2016

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