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February 25, 2018


Untitled, Abbas Ali - Photos by the writer
Untitled, Abbas Ali - Photos by the writer

The relationship between a master and his apprentice has been romanticised since time immemorial in both Western and Eastern traditions. It signifies not only an exchange of knowledge with regards to the primary trade in question but also of ideas and worldview.

A similar relationship is on display currently at the Aqs Gallery in Islamabad titled Modern Vision — Part 6 by Generation Rahi. As the name gives away, the exhibition is mentored by the Rahis — Mansoor Rahi and Hajra Mansoor — and contains around 81 works by 25 emerging artists, plus the artworks of the duo. In many of the works one can see direct influences by Pakistani masters, which can only come through the guidance of mentors who are seeped in knowledge and allow each of the young artists to find their own path of enlightenment. It is particularly for this reason that one finds no conformity within the works, to either each other’s or to the Rahis — instead they have been allowed to find their own trajectory.

Saima Aamir’s works, for example, deal with landscapes that bear resemblance to one of the many hill stations littered around the capital city, the escalating heights and perspectives of which are captured by her knife’s sweep of brilliant hues of red and orange, replicating the play of light and emotions that reveal themselves to the observant amongst us.

An exhibition showcases the artworks of 25 emerging artists mentored by Mansoor Rahi and Hajra Mansoor

With Tayaba Aziz’s work, one can’t help but make a connection with the famous ‘Dancing Girl of Mohenjodaro.’ The figures in her work, laden with traditional jewellery, can easily be related to her with their dark skins, and a sense of time having stopped. The lazy gaze of the figures captures an element of utter calmness emanating from the canvases.

Untitled, Tayaba Aziz - Photos by the writer
Untitled, Tayaba Aziz - Photos by the writer

Abbas Ali, with his uncomplicated depiction of landscapes and villages, contains an element of duality, presented through the rigidity of the structures, but a fluidness in the surrounding environment, thus making an association with Ghulam Rasul’s work.

Sara Jan’s work, on the other hand, is embedded in surrealism, employing symbolistic icons like the bull, vulture and the bony figures, all too reminiscent of Sadequain’s work. However, it would be unjust to the young artist if one refuses to acknowledge that she is trying to develop her own vocabulary around these icons.

Coming to Rahi’s work, one would be hard-pressed to ascertain the age of the artist from his work, since it contains not only a youthful quality but there is something exquisitely imaginative about it, making one feel that they are looking at an upcoming Disney cartoon character. The distinction the artist is able to achieve between the subject and the background using the same colour palette is a sure sign of a master.

With Mansoor’s work, one can see the continuation of her own style, making it quite easy to identify her creations from the line-up. Her Chugtai-inspired, Pahari-styled women, sitting confidently in the knowledge of their own unmatched beauty and grace, is in sync with the ideals that Generation Rahi subscribes to — that of letting newcommers find their own style while learning from the phelothra of knowledge available to us through the works of the Masters.

Untitled, Saima Aamir - Photos by the writer
Untitled, Saima Aamir - Photos by the writer

For these emerging artists, having their work showcased alongside Mansoor and Rahi should inspire confidence in their creative pursuits.

“Modern Vision – Part 6 by Generation Rahi” is being displayed at the Aqs Gallery in Islamabad from February 2 to February 28, 2018

Published in Dawn, EOS, February 25th, 2018