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Trees, tonga and talent

March 12, 2017

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Tree with red tonga / Photos by White Star
Tree with red tonga / Photos by White Star

KARACHI: Land­scapes — made by quality landscape artists, I might add — are always a delight to see. They usually depict that aspect of life which has, over the years, taken a back seat in our daily lives: serenity. Now, if this aspect of life is dealt with a smattering of symbolism, it becomes a rarity that should be celebrated.

Ghulam Mustafa, whose artworks can be seen at the Clifton Art Gallery in an ongoing exhibition, is an artist who both pleasantly surprises you with his extraordinary talent and develops an urge in you to be part of the world that he creates through his art.

Another artwork / Photos by White Star
Another artwork / Photos by White Star

The streets and fields that Mustafa paints are readily identifiable. They belong to us. They are as much woven into our cultural fabric as any other thing such as, let’s say, sartorial sense and languages. The artist goes a step ahead. He shrouds these cultural features in subtle symbolism. Why subtle? Answer: because that’s not what he’s trying to do. He is not being preachy, rather, he wants the viewer to realise there could be more than one way of appreciating indigenousness.

Green balcony / Photos by White Star
Green balcony / Photos by White Star

Let’s begin with the two pieces titled ‘Kite Shop’ (oil on canvas). It is basically a shot of an old street. Since Mustafa has named it kite shop, the viewer inadvertently looks at the kites hanging in a store. Only when the whole picture is taken into account can the viewer understand the artist’s drift. The kites are symbolic of the solidarity among various segments of a certain part of society that exists in a single moment of time. They are colourful and haven’t yet soared sky high — the fate that they deserve.

The artist delivers a master stroke in ‘The Tree with red tonga’. The barren tree creates a slight shadow and the tonga is parked there. The severity of the environment which brings the two (tree and tonga) together is created by the yellowness that envelops the whole frame. Nothing is more significant in the painting than that colour. It is an image that stays with you for a considerably long time.

The exhibition will run until March 20.

Published in Dawn, March 12th, 2017