Urban issues

August 31, 2018

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THE artworks on display at the exhibition. -Photos by White Star
THE artworks on display at the exhibition. -Photos by White Star

KARACHI: The city’s metamorphosis from a quaint littoral town to a nightmarish concrete jungle has made the artist community revisit its past over and over again with a nostalgic longing to return. But then there are some who concentrate on the ‘present’ of the city with all its jumbled ugliness and mismanaged affairs in order for the viewer, be it art lovers or city planners, to think and do something about. Haider Ali is one of them, an exhibition of whose works titled “Conurbations” is underway at the Arts Council.

Once you enter the third floor of the council building, the feeling that you will get is that perhaps you have entered the wrong place. The space gives the impression of an under construction site. Then you look around and you see paintings, drawings and other artworks placed in different parts of the big exhibition hall.

Things will start making sense once you step back a little and read the artist’s statement: “I’m intrigued by the ruptures caused by human development and the inevitable forces of nature.” Two aspects of the statement need to be understood to get the hang of the exhibits — rupture and human development.

Photos by White Star
Photos by White Star

The latter indicates a ‘human’ hand involved in the ‘rupture’ of a particular movement or progression. But then urbanisation means forward movement. The rupture that Ali is alluding to is the disconnect with nature, with the atmosphere, that in the distant past made human associations in the city purer.

An untitled graphite-on-paper piece needs special mention here: the black and white exhibit shows an overhead shot of various parts of Karachi. The special feature of the artwork is that somehow it manages to evoke two feelings, almost simultaneously, in the viewer: glorious past and uncertain present.

The exhibition concludes on Friday.

Published in Dawn, August 31st, 2018