The depth of perception of visual artists may vary, because they see, wonder and think at different levels. As a result, what they harvest in terms of drawing, painting and sculpture is an exciting revelation for the audience. Bringing home similar experiences of Pakistani artists settled abroad, an exhibition titled ‘Aerial Cartographies’, was recently held at the Canvas Gallery, showcasing works of Sara Khan and Natasha Shoro. The artists are based in Canada and the USA, respectively.
Perched on the 22nd floor of a Vancouver building, Khan often surveys the cityscape, wondering with awe at the view ahead of her. Hailing from Lahore, where most of the city’s architecture sprawls horizontally, Khan finds the vertical superstructures of Vancouver overwhelming. “Moving from linear to a high-rise environment altered her visual experiences, and that is what Khan is documenting,” says Sumera Raja, the gallery curator, on behalf of Sara Khan who was not present. “She yearns to investigate what she views from her apartment, and goes down to examine the location and the towering skyscrapers. This is what changes the entire perspective.”
Having consumed ground-level characteristics of the structure in focus, Khan goes back to her initial vantage point to record it. Her mixed media paintings on paper, ‘Walk-1’ and ‘Walk-2’, are a true representation of the differences that she establishes between the view from a distance and from near. Her paintings ‘Kataat’ and ‘Shaam’, watercolor on paper, depicting windows with sky in sunset colors, demonstrate the artist’s impression of evening moods. Her compositions show floating images that evolve in Khan’s inner mind and are rendered through multi-layered washes of color. The resultant paintings, harboring the artist’s innate discernment of dimensional planes, time and perspective, require solitude to be delightfully absorbed and visually savoured.
A fresh body of work by contemporary painters living abroad always infuses a certain vibrancy into the local art scene
The fabric collages and paintings of Shoro gave an additional impetus to the show, owing to their relatively larger sizes. Present at the opening, she says, “I am fascinated by our ethnicity, traditional embroidery and earthy textures, which resonate on to my work. Part of an earlier installation displayed at the ‘Earth Skins and Mapping Festival’ in Los Angeles, these collages have now been taken apart, so that they can be shared across the world.” Shoro explained that the collage elements stitched together are pieces of hand-painted canvases. ‘Earthskin-1’ and ‘Earthskin-2’, are typical examples of what the artist perceives and how she narrates — a kind of flight through the earth’s stratosphere — looking down on unique cartographies of patterns that hug the earth’s surface.
“My canvases are based on drawing, painting and printmaking, using acrylic paint, ink and enamel paint,” says Shoro, “I have used the elements of nature, particularly earth, because we return to it.” Obsessed with nature’s infinite creations, she resorts to the use of prints with natural objects such as leaves. Having been a swimmer once, the contrasting deep blues substantiate the artist’s attachment to the sea. Her paintings ‘Photosynthesis’ and ‘Deep Dive’ reflect her passion for nature and the sea. The diversity in Shoro’s tonal expression gives her the ability to make wide-ranging statements in a rich vocabulary of brilliant hues.
A fresh body of work by contemporary painters living abroad always infuses a certain vibrancy into the local art scene, in terms of its approach, concepts and mediums. It is indeed a prudent vision of galleries, who continue to promote interaction at global levels and provide stimulus for the advancement of art.
‘Aerial Cartographies’ was exhibited at the Canvas Gallery from August 2nd to 11th.