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May 19, 2019


Girl In The Garden, Anna Molka Ahmed
Girl In The Garden, Anna Molka Ahmed

The University of Punjab’s College of Art and Design (PUCAD) has an illustrious history. Founded as the department of fine arts in 1940 by the inimitable artist and teacher Anna Molka Ahmed, it has produced many stars and continues to do so. A recent exhibition at the PUCAD, titled Canvas and Colleagues, brought together under one roof the works of more than 50 artists, all having served the department at some point in time. It was a gathering of paintings, drawings, prints, sculptures, fabric art and photographs, representing the various departments of the college. Curated by Dr Naela Amir, a current faculty member, and facilitated by the principal, Prof Dr Shahida Manzoor, the event was pretty special.

The venue of the exhibition, the grand hall of the college, with its high ceilings and carved wooden balconies all around, is an awe-inspiring work of architecture from bygone times, and added to the enchanting aura of the exhibition. Many of the artists whose work is on display are no longer in this world — Khalid Iqbal, Anwar Afzal, Zubeda Javed, Naseem Hafiz Qazi, to name a few. However, many other distinguished art practitioners who are still amongst us were present on the inaugural day. The exhibition has been documented in a coloured publication edited by Nadeem Alam.

It is impossible to comment on all that is being exhibited; one can mention a few which made an impact. Anna Molka’s ‘Girl In The Garden’ is a particularly endearing choice, and one has never before seen this particular specimen of her work. Colin David’s ‘Rukhsana With Karen’ is another such example which is done in the artist’s quintessential style. Amongst the recently made paintings, Rahat Naveed’s ‘Thirst’ is a moving, figurative piece, and Rukhe Nilofer Zaidi’s untitled canvas is a treat for the senses. Even Dr Manzoor’s very recently painted ‘Scattered Memories’ comes across as a splendid handling of vibrant colours and abstract imagery.

An exhibition brings past and present stars of Pakistan’s art world under one roof

Sumera Jawad’s ‘Insemination-II’ is realistic in its rendering but uses space in a more unconventional, minimalistic way. Dr Amir’s ‘Flight’ is a deftly-made work in pastels and displays a newer, more symbolic approach to imagery by the artist.

Untitled (2014), Rukhe Nilofer Zaidi
Untitled (2014), Rukhe Nilofer Zaidi

Anila Zulfiqar’s ‘Nostalgic Expressions’ is an unusual, engaging piece, made with fabric rolls on canvas, while Faisal Asghar’s ballpoint pen on paper ‘Earth, Water, Air And Fire’ and Mughees Riaz’s charcoal on paper ‘Buffalo With Crow’ are remarkably sensitive monochrome drawings.

Scattered Memories, Prof Dr Shahida Manzoor
Scattered Memories, Prof Dr Shahida Manzoor

The PUCAD is generally known for a more conservative, painterly approach to art. This is reaffirmed in the exhibition. And, yet, there are signs that point to new trends and mediums for artistic expression. A video on target killings by Ahmed Bilal and a musical track by Rakae Rehman Jalil are a few examples in that regard.

“Canvas and Colleagues” was held at the Grand Hall, College of Art and Design, Allama Iqbal Campus, University of the Punjab, Lahore, from May 3 to May 18, 2019

Published in Dawn, EOS, May 19th, 2019