An exploration in monotone

November 11, 2018

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— Photos by Tanveer Shahzad
— Photos by Tanveer Shahzad

ISLAMABAD: A show titled Modulated Ambiguities featuring the works of five emerging artists opened at Gallery 6 on Saturday night. While each artist has chosen a different medium and subject, the common thread running through the exhibition is the lack of colour in the works featured.

The show’s curator Arjumand Faisal explained that the idea was to bring together artists who work in monotone. “The beauty of monotone is that in the absence of colour, the artist must concentrate on the subject and give a lot of detail to their work because that is all they have to attract a viewer,” he said.

From Abdul Aziz Meer from Chitral to Sajjad Nawaz from Bahawalpur, each of the five artists comes from a different part of Pakistan. The unique geographies of the artists’ places of origin and their cultural landscapes are reflected in the work itself.

Talking about his work, Sajjad Nawaz said the indigenous cultural heritage and the palaces and forts of his native Bahawalpur featured heavily in his earlier works. Later the Cholistan desert itself became his main source of inspiration and he began depicting the shifting sand dunes and the open skies of the desert.

In the two pieces featured in this show, the masterful depiction of textures and form using only charcoal dust stands out. A single cloud is the subject of a large diptych in charcoal on paper, where viewers can clearly make out the sunlight breaking through and illuminating a cloud.

The second piece features a sand dune and the artist uses charcoal to intricately depict the fascinating patterns tiny grains of sand make when they slide around with gusts of wind.

The shifting forms of nature are also the subject of Muneeb Aaqib’s work, who explores the visible and invisible forces which transform landscapes and natural environments. The artist is a graduate of Hazara University Mansehra and works as a teacher at the University of Engineering Technology in Abbottabad.

The scale of his drawings, which use graphite on paper, is small and highly detailed. “Air, wind, water, light and sound are forever shifting with continuous and minute changes and it is these changes in my natural surroundings which are my source of inspiration,” he said.

Crumpled paper and the various forms it takes is the unique subject of Imran Haider’s drawings in graphite on paper. The Hafizabad-born artist says his process begins with crumpling up a piece of paper, throwing it on the floor and then noticing the forms and dimensions it takes. A close study reveals the emergence of a variety of subjects normally ignored.

“In the past, my work featured the human form but lately the forms are more animal-like. I have purposely kept these drawings untitled so each viewer sees something unique. Some will see a dog and another will see an elephant. My entire focus is the creation of an interesting composition with a form that remains mysterious,” he said.

The only colour on the walls of the gallery is lent by three drawings by Usman Khalid using charcoal pencil and ink on paper, depicting human figures in black against white, with only the dresses worn by the subjects in a single colour. Describing this body of work, Mr Khalid said it is an exploration in the relationship between subjects and the spaces they occupy.

“The drawings consist of figures existing in a pure white space, which may appear untouched or ignored but in fact aides the overall composition,” he said.

The faces of the figures in two of the drawings are not visible, which allows the viewer to project their own thoughts and feelings onto the work. “It creates curiosity and leaves space for interpretation,” Mr Khalid said.

Chitral-born Abdul Aziz Meer uses his own body as a medium to make impressions on paper and create large scale monotypes. The artist who was not at the exhibition said in his statement that he views his work as an extension of his own being and himself as a modern-day printmaker using his body as a plate and smoke as ink.

“My experience as a miniature artist allows me to look at my work quite closely and use the traditional techniques of Siah Qalam and Neem Rang,” he said.

The exhibition will continue until November 21.

Published in Dawn, November 11th, 2018