Hearsay, not hearsay

Published August 3, 2017
Some of the exhibits on display.—White Star
Some of the exhibits on display.—White Star

KARACHI: Hearsay can be described in many ways, the most common of which is that it’s a piece of unsubstantiated information. This is something that’s not alien to Pakistani society. Many a time we’ve seen people reacting to situations without confirming their veracity.

The title of an exhibition of Muzzumil Ruheel’s latest body of work is Hearsay. He has lent, or his intention is to lend, a new meaning to the word. There are two reasons for it: one, he is part of our society for some of whose sections hearsay is as good as truth; and two, his recent travel experiences. So, the artist’s imagination gets spurred by the circumstances he has lived in, the people he has interacted with, and the results he has drawn as an artist from all of that. Naturally, there’s a lot to process, which is the reason Ruheel employs a variety of techniques to put his message across.

But is there a message to be gleaned from his work? It’s a tricky one. The viewer can leave the Canvas Art Gallery, where the show is being held, utterly satisfied after seeing his tremendous talent on display. The artist summons symbols, men/women, animals and geometric shapes to a convincing effect to broaden the scope of hearsay.

‘Upside Down’ (ink and acrylic on wasli paper) is a self-explanatory piece in terms of its caption. But for the viewer it is not an uncomplicated phenomenon to decipher, therefore s/he has to take the artwork on face value. It’s not a dilemma. It’s a matter of choice.

Some of the exhibits on display.—White Star
Some of the exhibits on display.—White Star

The diptych ‘Robber or Robin’ (ink and acrylic on canvas) is an intriguing exhibit where the characters can be judged in a Jekyll and Hyde framework. Again, it’s a question of perception, not just of the viewer, but of the artist himself — what’s at stake here is preset notions.

In ‘Regular Treat’ (ink on paper) Ruheel comes full circle by bringing the viewer to a more relatable world where hearsay can safely be construed as not-hearsay. Interesting stuff.  

The exhibition concludes on Aug 10.

Published in Dawn, August 3rd, 2017

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