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Exhibition: The contemplative bohemian

Updated August 07, 2016
‘Pot Spot’
‘Pot Spot’

Nowadays, life moves at lightning speed. In its wake, it leaves a tangled past. To recall that can be a formidable task. In the world of art, however, there are a few bold troopers who dig into the past and recreate some of the most wondrous moments of their lives. Aqsa Shakil, an ardent globetrotter, is an artist who is dedicated to the idea of visually archiving memories associated with her personal life, voyages and sojourns. As a consequence, Shakil continues to recapture moments that have impacted her the most. Her recent exhibition of 27 remarkably innovative pieces, titled ‘Delineate’ at the Koel Art gallery, Karachi, promises to introduce a new set of rules for the wasli painters.

Shakil’s work is spread over three categories of treatment — the ink washes on wasli, the layered butter-paper series and the roving sketches on journal paper. Every piece reflects on the artist’s immaculate perception of anatomy, colour, medium and texture. Deploying these skills, she creates the precise visual representation of what (her) memory looks like.

Lying somewhere between the limits of fiction and truth, her paintings instill an empathetic impression on viewers. Thematically, Shakil’s work is focused on conflicting observations, discordant events that come together in agreement. “I consider my paintings a platform to investigate the abstract disparities of realism as opposed to the deceptive and ephemeral,” she says, adding that “Every painting is a piece of memory that depicts my mind. Walking into the gallery today, I felt that I am walking through my mind”.


Globetrotting artist Aqsa Shakil is dedicated to visually archiving her memories and experiences


She elaborates that her frequent travelling connects her with a lot of people who have either stayed or moved on. “These changing aspects have an impact on me, and my expression begins to respond to that impact, transforming every painting into a visual depiction of my memory,” she says.

‘UPS Truck’
‘UPS Truck’

The artist shows a deep attachment to family and the importance of relationships. She chooses old family photographs to serve as the basis for her work, because of their exclusive characteristic of semi-permanence, existing look, and perceived frankness. “I use butter paper for tracings from actual photos to depict life in layers such as those of my mother, grandmother and best friend,” said Shakil, “I also depict children in a playground. I capture weather, rain, snow and hail, depending on where I am located, and I resort to walnut ink because it can be toned down, unlike some other inks.”

During her travels, she sketches (‘Trekoids’ according to her), the environment using different mediums according to her mood and feeling in that moment. For example, her drawing of an aircraft wing with scribbly patterns represent the real-time flight vibration sensed by a wobbly pen, somewhat akin to a seismograph. Another occasion during which she captures vibrations of a moving vehicle was during a road trip in New Mexico.

With numerous exhibitions locally and internationally, Shakil is widely acclaimed for her distinguished acumen in being able to express herself. She has various awards to her credit, and her works are permanently displayed in reputed galleries and museums across the globe.

‘Delineate’ was exhibited at the Koel Art Gallery on July 14th till July 23rd

Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, August 7th, 2016