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Fancy and imagination

August 11, 2018

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Three of the paintings on display at the exhibition.—White Star
Three of the paintings on display at the exhibition.—White Star

KARACHI: In literary criticism, fancy is considered inferior to imagination, because imagination is the domain of creative people, whereas fancy only “combines all those things that are perceived by human beings into shapes”. Interestingly, a group show that’s under way at the Chawkandi Art Gallery encourages the five participating artists to use their fancy.

The exhibition puts the artworks on view under the rather vague rubric ‘Ever let the fancy roam’. This seems deliberate. The reason could be that the organisers of the show want the artists –– Maria Khan, Mohsin Shafi, Sara Khan, Suleman Khilji and Haya Zaidi –– to take the next step, from fancy to imagination. Of course, this should be bread and butter for them. And it is. But the painters do not describe their individual journeys just like that.

They like the viewer to join them, both in pain and mirth, which they had to experience while making the artworks that are on display.

According to the curator of the show, Dua Abbas, the participating artists were given five folk tales representing different parts of the world. It is a worthwhile idea. The paintings, done in a variety of media (watercolour, charcoal, pigment pastels, acrylics etc) do carry that element. Yet, even if the viewer came to the exhibition unaware of this fact, s/he would find the artworks self-contained and brimming with storytelling prospects.

Now, no creative individual can move away from his or her society and tell a story. So the stories that are told by the artists speak of both societal shortcomings and an individual’s placement in that society. It needs to be said, though, that an individual’s placement in society seems to be more of a concern for the artists. Why not? Because this is one of the points where imagination surpasses, or can surpass, the limitations of fancy.

The exhibition concludes on Aug 15.

Published in Dawn, August 11th, 2018