Homeless, Arsalan Naqvi
Homeless, Arsalan Naqvi

Our society is undergoing change due to unequal distribution of wealth, rampant poverty and rising inequality. There are some artists who have captured this divide very sensitively. Among them two very perceptive and astute artists, Sundeep Kumar and Arsalan Naqvi have created artworks that evoke hidden feelings within the viewer. Each piece of work speaks for itself, a cathartic process showcasing the artist’s concerns within the socio-political context of the work. Their show titled “Oblivion” opened at My Art World gallery in Islamabad.

Naqvi is an artist who is known for depicting Pakistani streets in his artworks. He touches upon the lives of street children and manages to capture their unforgettable pain, unbearable vulnerability, innocence and helplessness. He immortalises their dark childhood memories and brings forward a segment of society that people are not willing to pay attention to. Born in Hyderabad, Naqvi completed his Diploma in Fine Arts from Khana-i-Farhang Iran, Hyderabad.

In ‘Harbingers 2’, Naqvi has converted an everyday bird — the crow — into psychologically-besieged imagery. The crows are painted in greys and display a menacing eminence. Isolation and hollowness radiate from the crows. These are human emotions and are portrayed by the artist showing that street children around us have been forgotten by society at large.

Arsalan Naqvi and Sundeep Kumar proficiently visualise poverty and chaos in their paintings

In ‘Homeless’ a similar aura is depicted. Enrobed in grey the children seem lost and sad, looking at each other for help and solace. The artist’s paintings are aptly composed in a mix media of acrylics and charcoal.

Kumar’s interesting paintings have the ability to connect to a large audience. He graduated with honours in 2015 from the Centre of Excellence in Arts and Design, University of Sindh, Jamshoro. In his current body of work he has impaired coins to propagate his story. The artist collects Pakistani coins as a hobby and inspiration for his paintings. Socio-political factors, Western pop culture and his personal memories make up the stimulating imagery on his canvases. Quaid-i-Azam’s face has been marred to make room for the memories and moments of the artist’s life.

Kumar’s visuals quietly bring forward the dark aspects of our culture. Normally the coin signifies capital, opulence and success in society. The artist has detached himself from the history that is interpreted through the coin. It is no longer about Pakistan — a country as envisioned by the founding fathers. It is about the country where affordability of basic necessities has become very difficult. The metallic colours and low relief of coins have always allured Kumar. His fascination with coins is evident in ‘Two Rupees’ where Kumar has skilfully rendered the coin in charcoal revealing its metallurgic quality. He also represents the children of Pakistan through ‘Jake’ — a character of a cellphone game. Jake embodies street children collecting coins by cleaning windscreens at traffic signals.

Naqvi and Kumar keep their viewers curious and both artists show a lot of promise that can be realised as their respective work matures.

“Oblivion” was held at My Art World, Islamabad from October 31 to November 6, 2016

Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, November 20th, 2016