KARACHI: In his remarkable essay ‘Tradition and Individual Talent’ T.S. Eliot writes that no poet, no artist of any art, has his complete meaning alone. He insinuates that artists employ language that has developed over many a century. Obviously, the formidable critic and poet wants his readers to understand that we are all part of a large continuum and even when we try and detach ourselves from it, it reinforces our association with itself. Artist Ghulam Hussain, an exhibition of whose latest body of work titled Mind=Blown is under way at the Sanat Art Gallery, is aware of it. One doesn’t know whether he is aware of Eliot’s ideas, but he does appear to believe in similar notions.
Looking at Hussain’s work the first thing that springs to mind is some traditional block prints used in Sindh. Well, the artist is achieving more, without losing sight of tradition, and by using tradition as a springboard to turn familiar line-based patterns into a matrix representing the maze of life.
Hussain’s medium is graphite on canvas. Now graphite suggests greyness — greyness of concepts. This greyness (not to mention a striking combo of black and white colours) is highlighted by puzzling lines that give the impression as if what’s in front of the viewer is a big labyrinth. The closer one looks at the labyrinth, the clearer it will be to understand that the artist is hinting at those aspects of the visual sense which are not readily graspable. What you see is not what you always get.
Amidst all of this is Hussain’s craft. The craft, of all the things mentioned here, is more to do with the tradition that the artist belongs and adheres to. And this is what makes his effort worth taking note of.
The exhibition will conclude on Nov 14.
Published in Dawn, November 9th, 2017