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March 17, 2019


Remnant 2, Jovita Alvares
Remnant 2, Jovita Alvares

A AN Gandhara Art Space’s current photography-based exhibition weaves digital stories which refer to archiving visual memory. ‘Depicture’, curated by Alia Bilgrami, shows the work of Shah Numair Abbasi, Ali Sultan, Aisha Abid Hussain, Malika Abbas, Veera Rustomji, Jovita Alvares, Nurjahan Akhlaq and Iqra Tanveer. The overall narrative comes from a crossover of painting, film and photographic backgrounds that ‘seeks to address the transient nature of time-based media.’ Starkly minimal in its layout, it complements the understated architectural ambieance of the gallery space.

Abbasi’s provocative imagery on male gay culture draws on a combination of the wit and immediacy of a cell phone chat. A series of informal drawings, pigment marker, pencil and watercolour are titled “All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons should be apparent to them and those who know them.” The annotation accompanying the visuals — almost as basic as a student’s mood board — records real or imaginary online conversations between men. The words used in mobile applications are used here as symbols for communication within a close circle. They are, therefore, understood by the participants. The artist is merely engaging the viewer from an experiential point of view. This depicts the artist’s vulnerable position in its deviance from social conformity.

Akhlaq is a filmmaker whose work in this show looks at the more formal concerns of flatness and movement. Her aesthetics are influenced by Islamic architectural divisions within which she locates a disorder and rupture. Tanveer explores a dreamlike pictorial space.

Through the selfie and the moving image, a photography-based show comments on how we interact with each other in the digital age

Alvares’ two diptychs are an assemblage of shots of an abandoned site filled with rubble. She marks the constructed/dilapidated urban landscape in a vague reconstruction, addressing the notion of continuity and discontinuity. One may ask what her generation of artists is witnessing in the land as subject, and if this relationship seeks to idealise the unkempt land for the ‘market’, or what Sontag referred to as ‘aesthetic consumption.’ The curator refers to locating connection to histories, and this may be an important intersection where artists start to document the land around them in an experiential sense.

Come A Little Closer, Malika Abbas
Come A Little Closer, Malika Abbas

Sultan’s photographs of bushes, recorded in black and white, convey a sense of the painterly. The imagery is charged with intense movement, and becomes all the more compelling due to the smallness of its size. In contrast, Abbas’ large inkjet prints, also in black and white, have a more immediate connection with the viewer. An elderly woman’s expression, as she is photographed while she is either cleaning her mouth or putting her dentures in a private moment reflects her vulnerability. She seems to be unaware of the photographer’s intrusion. Sontag also referred to photography as a weapon because of its voyeuristic nature.

Hussain’s moving image is a documentation of the interior spaces of Salima and Shoaib Hashmi’s house. The objects and spaces within it become a portrait of Salima Hashmi, as recorded by Hussain.

Untitled, Ali Sultan
Untitled, Ali Sultan

Rustomji’s moving clip of food being cooked engages with the societal conditioning of women in stereotypical roles. Critiques such as this place the artist at the centre of the discussion, as she negotiates with expectations, without masking or glorifying the situation. Her role is of a commentator advising girls to cook a good meal if they want the husband to be faithful.

The seemingly simple visuals in the show provide a mirror to the different temperaments of Pakistani society.

“Depicture” is being exhibited at the AAN Gandhara Art Space in Karachi from February 21 to March 21, 2019

Published in Dawn, EOS, March 17th, 2019