EXHIBITION: SYMBOLIC REALISM

July 15, 2018

Email

To Exist is to Die, Eesha Suhail
To Exist is to Die, Eesha Suhail

Lahore’s O Art Space Gallery continues to showcase the work of young, accom­plished artists. Its most recent exhibition, titled Forecast, included eight art graduates; five from the National College of Arts (NCA), and three from the Punjab University College of Art and Design (PUCAD). Eesha Suhail, Iman Sara Siddiqi, Jahanzeb Haroon, Syed Noroz Ali and Tooba Ashraf are NCA graduates, while Aun Raza, Fakhra Asif and Zainab Aziz graduated from the PUCAD. The commonality between their artwork was the element of painterly realism coupled with symbolism to give the imagery a meaning that went beyond the obvious.

Suhail’s almost photographic realism seems to be her hallmark. One recalls having seen her thesis work at NCA a year ago and her ability to capture textural and light effects was remarkable even then. Two of her paintings on display in this group show are an extension of her earlier ones, though the compositions are indeed new. The miniature-style works, made with gouache on wasli, feature a conglomeration of still life items; crystal vases, silver tray and flowers set on a sleek, wooden dining table in a dark but opulent room adorned with lighted lamps and candles. The titles, ‘To Exist Is To Die’ and ‘Home Is Where Your Demons Are’, give an eerie ethos to the visuals.

Siddiqi’s style is realistic, too, but in complete contrast to the aforementioned paintings. The mixed media, almost monochrome works, are a re-imagining of ancient classical Greek sculptures. The headless torsos that appear in different configurations, are very sensitively done, and allude to a poignant, symbolic representation of human power, pain and fragility.

A group of young artists presents the poignancy of life through dark and incongruous imagery

A cynical and amusing take on local wedding festivities appears in Haroon’s colourful canvases made with acrylic paints. His style of realism reminds one of veteran artist Iqbal Hussain, though the colours here are more expressionistic.

Stare of Charisma, Aun Raza
Stare of Charisma, Aun Raza

In contrast to these bold visuals, one sees the miniatures of Ali, which are delicate in the rendering of the human form and coloured very selectively to focus on features which the artist wishes to highlight. Sensitivity to the travails of the common man is evident in the narrative.

The three oil paintings by Ashraf are less detailed and more expressionistic in character. The colours are muted and the strokes mottled and tentative. The works exude an element of nostalgia and even pain, and appear to be centred around childhood memories.

Raza’s realism elicits the element of shock and awe. Human faces juxtaposed with assorted objects in a surreal way are almost jarring to the senses, while the detailing of textures and colour contrasts are hard to ignore.

Asif chooses to focus on human hands and the symbolism of their gestures. The palpable realism and warmth of a man and a woman clasping hands in a moment of endearment has been remarkably captured in one of her canvases.

Untitled, Fakhra Asif
Untitled, Fakhra Asif

Last but not least, the single, large oil on canvas titled ‘Chinese whisper’ by Aziz is an impressive monochrome work in shades of black and grey ,with a pristine ivory-coloured backdrop. The middle and lower half of the canvas is left blank, while the faces of two young women peer from above. The combination of almost photographic realism with a minimalistic design format is indeed captivating.

All the artists are indeed gifted, with painterly expertise and a desire to explore the realm of aesthetics. It would be interesting to see how they continue to expand upon their art practice in the coming years. One can indeed ‘forecast’ an exciting future for their talent.

The show “Forecast” was held at the O Art Space Gallery in Lahore, from June 29 till July 9, 2018

Published in Dawn, EOS, July 15th, 2018