Words and beyond

Published February 7, 2019
Two of the artworks on display at the exhibition.—White Star
Two of the artworks on display at the exhibition.—White Star

KARACHI: An exhibition of Hammad Gillani’s artworks titled Untouched by Words is under way at the Sanat Art Gallery.

Gillani hails from the erstwhile Orakzai Agency (now district). It is quite fascinating to know how artists from that culturally rich region of the country think and create. This brings us to the name of the show which, in a manner of speaking, overlooks verbal or written forms of communication (the reference is to the phrase ‘untouched by words’). Why does the artist do that? There could be multiple answers to the question, one of which is provided by Gillani himself in his statement. He says he is in a state of transition as an individual. Now this puts an intriguing spin on his work. By talking about the transience of human life, in this case his own, he is actually hinting at the impermanence of things around us — social mobility, relationships, political goings-on etc.

If this sounds outlandish, one only needs to look at the immense talent that Gillani shows by virtue of his striking gouache-on-wasli exhibits. There’s child-like charm to what he does. While there’s urgency, a sense of creative immediacy, to his effort, at the same time he appears to have a bottled-up desire to let out whatever he wants to say. It is not that easy to detect, though, because at first his artworks will make the viewer think about the swishing and swooping red and black lines, moving from one end of the frame to another, making images that are difficult to grasp.

But it doesn’t take an awful lot of time for the viewer to get the hang of Gillani’s creative streak, which is mainly to do with the transience of things that he refers to. There is progress, and an unhindered one at that, towards a destination — it could be a personal milestone or a collective societal goal. Gillani won’t tell you what it is, and therein lies the charm of his exhibition. The bottom line is: it is impressive art. The show concludes on Feb 13.

Published in Dawn, February 7th, 2019

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