Exhibition: Monochrome narratives

Published October 9, 2016
‘Carvings of the tender I’
‘Carvings of the tender I’

Syed Hasan Mujtaba’s ‘A monochrome episode’ revolves around the insistence of the powers-that-be to mass produce youth from a single mould. According to the artist, society attempts to control young minds and convert them into programmed clones — somewhat akin to the concept presented in Pink Floyd’s musical album ‘The Wall’ (1979). The album explored themes of neglect and loneliness due to abuse from school teachers, overprotective parents, and a servile environment, resulting in a voluntary segregation from society by an allegorical ‘wall’.

Mujtaba’s work represents the innermost feelings of children, frozen compassionately in graphite and charcoal. Artist and curator Zeeshan Muhammad says, “With the use of elementary materials, Mujtaba has produced remarkable drawings with a breakthrough technique.” Other art enthusiasts defined the work as the ultimate experience of an evolving style, based on delicate monochromes with a minimalist approach.

The ‘Carvings of the tender’ series, in charcoal and lead on paper, have children symbolically morphing into stone pedestals — seemingly engrossed in fun and frolic and oblivious of what the future holds for them.


To have completely surrendered his soul to the exotic world of black, white and gray, Syed Hasan Mujtaba has committed himself to an uncharted territory of bold challenges


Mujtaba expresses the positive and the negative aspects of reality by an intuitive division of space. With reference to his diptych drawing ‘Lord, I am here’ (charcoal and chalk on paper), the artist explains, “The dark patches are heads of pilgrims, drawn in high contrast. The contiguous white area around these heads — the ihraams (pilgrims’ attire) — is the (spiritual) negative space that binds them together as ummah.”

‘Uniform games’
‘Uniform games’

The tonal variations of Mujtaba in ‘Uniform games’ (charcoal and lead on paper) tend to go beyond the triple-tone philosophy of highlights, half tones and shadows. With controlled contrast through micro-patches of chiaroscuro, the artist has evolved a special application method to produce unique textures. The drawing reflects space, temperament, ambience and textural effects substantiating the artist’s incredibly versatile handling of dark mediums. To have completely surrendered his soul to the exotic world of black, white and gray, he has committed himself to an uncharted territory of bold challenges.

‘A monochrome episode’ was exhibited at the Sanat Gallery, Karachi from September 22nd till September 30th, 2016

Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, October 9th, 2016

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