Follow Me (Edition 3), Osama Rehman Khan
Follow Me (Edition 3), Osama Rehman Khan

As individuals we often interpret and respond to situations and events differently. The same can be said for artists. More often than not, art is a replication, retrospection or simply a reaction to an incident felt personally by the artist. Our daily experiences tend to overlap with similarities. However, the response to any such event will always be unique to the individual ­— be it an artist or otherwise. The same can be said for the group of artists who displayed their works at the recent exhibition at Karachi’s Koel Gallery.

Titled Spacebar, the exhibition displayed artworks of the fresh graduates of the Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture and was curated by Nurayah Sheikh-Nabi. Much like the function of a spacebar on a keyboard is to provide a visual gap between thoughts, words and sentences, this show was premised on the interlude experiences of the budding artists since their graduation, and how this time away from the institution has allowed the fledgling artists to grow thus far.

The show, therefore, becomes a visual montage of the beginning of their careers as professionally independent artists. The artists included Abeer Arshad, Ana Kazmi, Ansha Memon, Aqsa Khan, Asim Ameen, Ayesha Ali, Babr Feroz, Hassaan Aslam, Haya Eshbani, Jaweria Shoaib, Kiran Saleem, Mahnoor Qazi, Muzna Roghay, Osama Rehman Khan, Sadia Safder, Sahl Motiwala, Saleha Qureshi, Samra Mehkri, Schanza Khan, Shahzadi Ayub, Sundus Ihsan, Tooba Shahbaz, Yusra Allawala and Zoya Faruqui.

Graduates from the Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture impress art lovers with their wide range of ideas

There is an intriguing mix of mediums and concepts within the exhibition. Set up as exact replicas of vintage arcade games, Qazi presents life-size installation works titled ‘Karachi Kross’ and ‘Dhaba–Run.’ The structures are hand-painted with illustrations, while each screen played a video loop of the 8-Bit Generation games such as Super Mario Bros and Pac-Man. However, Qazi adds her own twist to the game where, for one, she inserts an 8-Bit version of herself into the game instead of the original characters, as well as adds exciting Pakistani elements. Her work hones in on a time before the internet and smartphones were widespread and recalls the arcade culture that has now vanished.

I Could Be A Flower For You!, Ayesha M. Ali
I Could Be A Flower For You!, Ayesha M. Ali

Remembering how he has regularly shifted homes over the past few years, Osama Khan projected his thoughts on to a video installation titled ‘Follow Me.’ What began as a seemingly plain display of cartons on a wall suddenly changes into a dance of colour and lines as the video projection plays. By using the cartons as a symbol of his impermanence in a space, the projecting video appears almost like a map. The geometric shapes move within a common axis and create an illusion of depth as the designs overlap and recede.

Ihsan also looks at cardboard boxes and creates delicate paintings which discuss this idea of displacement.

Shoaib created a series of printmaking pieces titled ‘Erased.’ Each piece is a monochromatic image of a playground with the children visually scratched out, and recalls the horrible APS Peshawar attack. Her work looks at how desensitised we have become as a nation and, even after several years, how important it is to remember the lives once lost.

One of the greatest concerns of today is rapid climate change and the mindless deterioration of the planet. Arshad and Feroz are two artists who address this through their work. Arshad’s work becomes a form of recyclable art, as her clever use of bottle caps presents the viewer with captivating sculptures that represent foliage, and in a way, replace the greenery that has been reduced over the years. Feroz highlights the lack of care for local wildlife and their imminent extinction through his sculptures.

From their thesis display to now their works emerging in a gallery, these young artists seem to display a promising start.

“Spacebar” was held at the Koel Gallery in Karachi from June 11 to June 20, 2019

Published in Dawn, EOS, June 23rd, 2019