Altered realities

July 24, 2019

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A COUPLE of the art pieces on display at the exhibition.—White Star
A COUPLE of the art pieces on display at the exhibition.—White Star

KARACHI: There is something weirdly attractive about artists who try to make fiction go a step ahead of reality. The question is: is that possible? It is not an easy query to respond to, because oftentimes what our imagination does is that it makes us get a sense of reality in such a way that the real transcends its boundaries, if there are any, and enters into a fictionalised space which may be the farthest from where it originated but gives the impression that ‘this is it’.

A three-person exhibition titled The Jumbo Alteration, currently under way at the Canvas Art Gallery, has the same impact upon the viewer, with the result that the viewer walks out of the gallery appreciating both the craft of the artists and the ideas that they’re pushing through.

The above-mentioned observation is put forward with a great deal of force by Sophia Balagamwala. Her intention is to explore the ‘myths’ associated with heroism — of the sort that have to do with nations. Obviously, in the process the artist has to pass through the various phases in history and then interpret the subject after gleaning certain facts from her research. What she does is that she reveals her inferences through satirical representation of the figures that the viewer might or might not know. Who gains? Answer: art. Balagamwala comes up with some striking acrylic-on-canvas exhibits whose child-like effervescence adds an extra dimension to the seriousness of the topic.

Ali Sultan also travels in imagined spaces, but his imagination has a more individualistic tilt to them, not to mention the medium of his choice, dry point or etching on paper etc. He makes observation and experience come across as (greyish) sequences of a road film connecting which the viewer would be able to get the drift of the artist’s work. And he does a worthy job of it.

Yasser Vayani, the third important piece in the jumbo puzzle, bares it all by saying his work is basically an examination of the phrase that he uttered to himself, “Have I lost my mind?” This, he implies, enables him to look at the kind of ‘detachment’ that the artist feels and bears the brunt of during the creative process. Fascinating!

To be honest, one can find a thread running through the artworks of these three very talented artists, and it is the total and utter immersion in their work due to their frenzied love for art — art that treats reality as a believable fictionalised state of mind.

The exhibition concludes on July 25.

Published in Dawn, July 24th, 2019