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May 13, 2018


Fractured Cosmos Series, Sarah Ahmad
Fractured Cosmos Series, Sarah Ahmad

At its most rudi­mentary, a line is the starting point for any piece of artwork, with the evolution of its form limited to just the artist’s imagination. A three-person exhibition Folding Shadows was recently held at the Koel Gallery in Karachi in which each artist challenged the linear quality of their pieces to produce illusions of three-dimensionality. Though each work presented itself through a distinctive premise, their connecting factor for this exhibition had to do with the artist’s use of minimalism and play of light and shadow.

Babur Gull, a graduate of the National College of Arts (NCA) explores detail and minimalism in his work. Beginning with intricate grids scored into the paper’s surface with a blade cutter or painted on with watercolour, the artist has evolved his practice to include origami. An ancient Japanese technique of folding paper, origami requires precision and attention to detail. Paper is a flat two-dimensional plane; it is only through art of folding that a depth is generated, thus creating a three-dimensional origami sculpture.

Keeping all this in mind, Gull’s recent pieces consisted of folded structures painted on to wasli (a specific paper used by miniature artists) in a flattened two-dimensional perspective. The painted form still retained an illusion of firmness as the artist wisely recreated the multiple folds and drop shadows present in the actual sculpture. Sumi Ink, a medium used by Gull is a Japanese ink and cleverly links the medium to its subject matter.

An exhibition brings forth a group of artists whose use of light, shadow and geometric patterns create perplexing deceptions of depth

If the illusive decision of painting a paper sculpture on another paper wasn’t enough, the artist displayed metal-sheet sculptures for the exhibition that were also inspired by origami. A collocation was created between the weightlessness of a paper origami and its transformation into heavy metallic installations.

Fellow alumnus Hadia Moiz also played with shadows through her display at the gallery. Using layers of flat, clear Perspex glass, the artist explored the idea of absence versus presence. The transparency of the sheets allowed a multitude of shadows and tonal gradation, creating depth and a likeness of the object being present, though actually being a mere silhouette. Her imagery was inspired by multiples that appear in real life, such as desk drawers or chairs that were laser-cut into the Perspex and formed a kind of tessellation.

A barking dog seldom bites, Babar Gull
A barking dog seldom bites, Babar Gull

A graduate from the Memphis College of Art, Sarah Ahmed is inspired by nature, the universe and, most importantly, how it’s all connected. Through abstraction with ink or through laser-cut, Ahmed draws out linear forms that bend and morph from geometric to organic. One can see the exploration in her art as she goes on a journey to find connections between tree barks, the universe, man-made geometry and ourselves. She produces an imagined world — a space where one can take a breather from harsh and uninvited mayhem and, instead, be a part of something bigger than ourselves. Her drawings are reminiscent of foliage, stones as well as the heart and brain but, because of her unique technique, the imagery mutates continuously. Ahmed’s laser-cut sculptures create beautiful shadows against the white-walled gallery and trick one into experiencing the work as three-dimensional pieces.

All following a monochromatic palette, no one artist overshadowed the other. Instead, each body of work complemented each other and performed in unison for the audience. The show was curated by visual artist and curator, Alia Bilgrami. Folding Shadows was an endeavour to bring forth these artists whose use of light, shadow and geometry created perplexing deceptions of depth. Each oeuvre took the audience on an imagined escape, a space where reality is altered into fantasy, with visuals popping off the page, objects appearing out of nothingness and a sublime space, where all forms — natural and manmade — are one with the universe.

“Folding Shadows” was a three-person show held at the Koel Gallery in Karachi from April 25 to May 3, 2018

Published in Dawn, EOS, May 13th, 2018