Exhibition: Marking spaces

Published November 13, 2016
The Chinese Periodic Baloch 1926, David Alesworth
The Chinese Periodic Baloch 1926, David Alesworth

Curated by Aziz Sohail, the exhibition “How We Mark the Land” at the Gandhara-Art Space in Karachi, is a multidimensional show having an interesting range of paintings, drawings and installations. With a rich variety of expressions by seasoned contemporary artists such as Zarina Hashmi, Roohi Ahmed, Naiza Khan and David Alesworth, the show assumes a high-profile distinctiveness. Augmented further by visionary experiments by Fazal Rizvi, Shakila Haider, Shahana Rajani, Zahra Malkani and Abeera Kamran, the exhibition intends to evoke meaningful dialogues on issues of personalised habitats. As the curator explains, “In this show, artists from different generations have addressed complex issues of home, colony, belonging and perfection.”

Amongst the series of works by Naiza Khan, ‘Concrete Folly 1’ and ‘A Moving Landscape’ are based on the photographic images of structures such as a ’50s slide in a playground and an isolated water tank, which are now dilapidated. Linked through the use of concrete, these structures wastefully encroach on the land and damage the appearance of the landscapes.

The projector flashes a picture of ‘The Chinese Periodic Baloch 1926’, a textile intervention by David Alesworth depicts an antique Baloch kilimis with embroidered periodic table in Chinese. The installation is a interpretation of the Chinese interest in the natural resources where the artist even describes it as a ‘Chinese (con)-quest of Balochistan.’ Alesworth sends a deep message through this artefact insinuating the continual marking of land through mining and excavation.


A multidimensional show evokes meaningful dialogues on issues of personalised habitats


According to Roohi Ahmed marking can be in multiple ways such as physical marking, by living somewhere or through existence and experience. Her set of four board paintings depicts the alternate routes that she used to adopt during the ’80s to travel from Nazimabad to Clifton owing to the unexpected developments of unrest and roadblocks. These routes symbolise the sufferings of commuters who are constantly forced to make detours.

Founded on minimal composition, the woodcut prints of Zarina Hashmi are impactful for the content that they convey. These bold black and white images speak a direct language that extends effortless interpretation. Hashmi’s ‘Muddat’ [period] portrays rows of lines indicating days gone by and ‘Hudood’ [limits] with a simple cross which suggests the limit or end of the territory.

An interesting exhibit was a take-away publication titled ‘Fluid Frontiers’ by Fazal Rizvi. The artist explains: “This is a catalogue of a fictitious exhibition in a fictitious museum which highlights the absurdity of borders on water and fluid matter. I imagined narratives around different objects that have been found floating in the Arabian Sea.” In his illustration ‘Drawing Lines I and Drawing Lines II’ he deploys the keypunch typewriter as a mechanical tool for modelling paper — a metaphor of space, to express aggression and invasion by physically cutting the paper with hard strokes.

Intricately executed ‘More Than Good Intentions’ by Shakila Haider in mixed media on wasli, depicts experiences of those fleeing persecution. A traditional pattern (kaptomar) of the Hazara region is used as a symbol of protection. Shahana Rajani and Zahra Malkani’s archival prints of ‘Moon-Water-Earth-Plant’ series are a photographic documentation of the soil-specific indigenous vegetation which identifies the country’s exclusivity.

Karachi Mera Hi Tau Hai, Roohi Ahmed
Karachi Mera Hi Tau Hai, Roohi Ahmed

A combined production of Shahana Rajani, Zahra Malkani and Abeera Kamran is the projection-based web installation that addresses the rigours of Pahwaro Jabal (Mountain of Troubles) an area in Karachi’s Gadap Township. Once a thriving water source for livestock, it has become arid and desolate now. The browser-based artworks attempt to tackle development, climate change and the marginalisation of the locals.

The multi-pronged approach of the show, with diverse mediums to emphasise the evolution of neighbourhoods of numerous castes and creeds, is successful in meeting its objectives.

‘How we mark the land’ is being exhibited at the Gandhara-Art Space, Karachi, from October 27 to December 09, 2016

Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, November 13th, 2016

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