With the beginning of the 20th century, World War I changed the patterns of human history and behaviour. Serene, biblical, royal and stereotyped art gave way to dynamic, responsive, emotive and idiosyncratic expression. Lines were distorted, and form was compromised for purity of thought and virginity of concept.
These contemporary patterns were not accepted in Pakistan in the early years when Zubeda Agha presented abstract and semi-abstract canvases in her extraordinary exhibition in Karachi in 1949. However, after the academic influences of Shakir Ali and the endorsement of modern trends by the younger generation of artists, Pakistan produced few practitioners of the abstract and expressionistic style in art.
The exhibition “Hazy Opposition / Silent Resilience”, a collaboration between Shereen Ikramullah and Anjum Alix Noon at the Satrang Gallery at Serena Hotel in Islamabad, presented the contemporary visual idiom of art in Pakistan. The duo show was deeply
rooted in the nostalgic and presented a retrospective perspective of both artists. On experimental grounds, both Ikramullah and Noon worked on the same canvas to create a multi-dialect visual dialogue. Moreover,
verses by the Parisan poet Martine Jaureguiberry have also been incorporated with their English translations alongside the images.
Shereen Ikramullah and Anjum Alix Noon present an unorthodox idiom with shared canvases
Interestingly, all frames presented at the exhibition carry diversity because of the two different artists and their divergent approaches.
Noon’s work exemplifies the potentiality of text integrated with the resourcefulness of colours. She uses words, phrases and motifs in a symbolic manner where techniques of sketching, painting, sprays and even stenciling have been exploited in an expressionistic manner.
On the other hand, Ikramullah focuses on simple daily acts such as stroll in, dialogue and festivity. The usage of space on the canvas also indicates the visual adaptation and physical accommodation of both the artists. One artist started a canvas and the other finished it — a rare practice across the world of arts where every artist wants to maintain his or her individuality.
However, a sense of lightness and freedom emerge from every non-conventional frame to entice and engage the viewer such that where one finds himself directly involved in the expression of both artists.
Individuality associated with art has been challenged in the show with a touch of pop art patterns in appearance. However, a question arises here: if the images had not been supplemented with the poetic text, would there have been the same possibility of visual discourse, as playful and thought-provoking as Ikramullah and Noor have accomplished?
Collaborative work is a relatively new concept in the visual arts in Pakistan. This show might prove a solid contribution to the contemporary journey of unorthodox art in the country. However, at the same time, some may find the technique disturbing where two artists utilise one canvas. After all, sharing the utmost is almost impossible!
The Show “Hazy Opposition / Silent Resilience” was held at the Satrang Gallery at Serena Hotel in Islamabad from December 15, 2016 to January 12, 2017
Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine February 5th, 2017