KARACHI: What happens when works of three artists with established credentials are displayed in one show? Answer: the viewer is spoilt for choice. That’s the feeling that one had while visiting the Chawkandi Art Gallery where a three-person exhibition began on Thursday evening.
Needless to say that the artists — Wahab Jaffer, Naz Ikramullah and Siddiqua Bilgrami — have their distinct identities in the world of art, and rightly so, for which they are respected and admired in equal measure. But the one thing that can be seen as ‘common’ in their works is what poet John Keats called ‘negative capability’ — to look for artistic beauty even at the cost of experiencing intellectual uncertainties. ‘Silent Protest’ (acrylic on canvas) by Siddiqua Bilgrami is a prime example of it. The hapless figures that the viewer sees in the image are readily identifiable. The name that the artist has given to the scene makes things even simpler. And yet, the aesthetic richness (pursuit of artistic beauty) conjured by virtue of subtle strokes and easy-on-the-eye colours, is not lost on the viewer.
Naz Ikramullah narrates the story of the vicissitudes of life (call it time’s tyranny) in a remarkable acrylic-on-canvas piece called ‘Transition’. I say story, because the way Naz has placed the characters in one frame and then smudged their surroundings to give the picture a distorted look is indicative of a setting that the artist believes the viewer is familiar with. The ball is in the viewer’s court to live up to her expectation: recognise the scene and absorb it or take your eyes off it to escape reality.
Wahab Jaffer’s visually stunning ‘Composition’ (acrylic on canvas) series is a celebration of ‘being’ via colours. Celebration does not only imply a happy mood alone. There’s much to ponder here. The faces that Jaffer draws brim with life, and interpreting these faces is like interpreting human existence. The one thing, however, that can be said with certainty is that his protagonists’ black eyes don’t seek attention of those who look into them: they put questions to them. What are you looking at?
The exhibition will continue until Feb 24.
Published in Dawn, February 17th, 2017