Just weeks before its 10th anniversary, Koel Gallery in Karachi held one of its biggest exhibitions to date titled ‘Mera Safar’. The show comprised works by 15 artists who hail from Sindh and are established artists in contemporary Pakistani art. Curated by Noorjehan Bilgrami and Muhammad Zeeshan, the exhibition encompassed the artists’ personal journeys and how their individual struggles since childhood have contributed to their art practices.
Mussarat Mirza created life-sized paintings that addressed the bond between man and God. According to Mirza, it is the bond which cannot be shown in visuals. Hence, her visuals reflect upon the journey of finding oneself spiritually. Her painting ‘Journey Towards’ consists of a doorway with sharp daylight shining through it. Mirza considers this visual as the beginning of a journey. While the second painting ‘Rah-i-Haq’ is an image of a shrine which is considered the place of arrival after undertaking a journey. What is interesting about Mirza’s visuals is that she mixes her pigments into a murky colour palette and then allows sand to settle itself into those pigments.
Irfan Gul Dahri showcases five paintings which discuss a certain episode of the artist’s life. Shedding light on his inner demons, the artist feels they have greatly contributed to his personality building. While observing his current body of work, one needs to notice that, despite having a different language for every visual, hints of tension can be felt in them. For example, in the piece ‘Drawing’, the strokes and lines in the image fly around aimlessly, creating a whirlpool.
An exhibition revolves around the journeys of various artists through the lens of their past and personal experiences
Rehana Mangi’s artworks comprises miniature and floral images on which she has used the technique of cross-stitch. According to Mangi, this particular technique is a source of joy that allows her to connect with her childhood. The visuals not only address her childhood but the subdued colour palette and the application of textures take the viewer back in time.
Maryam Saleem’s installations address the divisions in our society and, at the same time, are open for dialogue. Her eye-catching videos carry a sense of longing and time, especially the video in which she has recorded birds flying across a deserted land, possibly reflecting upon moments which keep flying away like these birds and which cannot be brought back.
Abdul Jabbar Gul’s mixed media installations reflect upon his childhood, when he used to draw with charcoal on his house walls. Having come a long way, his current body of work contains various paintings, drawings and sculptures depicting different men; possibly an interpretation of the men who made a difference in Gul’s life.
Munawar Ali Syed’s work revolves around the year 1981 when he lost his father and brothers and the difficulty of coping with their deaths. Now having lost his mother as well, his current body of work reminisces about the time spent with his family. An interesting large-scale artwork by Syed is made on a wall in which he drew out a composition of objects such as a chair, a cycle and a cassette, etc.
By putting their individual experiences on display, it was as if the artists had gone back into their pasts and brought back remains from that time, recreating those particular moments.
“Mera Safar” was displayed at Koel Gallery in Karachi from February 19 to March 7, 2019
Published in Dawn, EOS, March 17th, 2019