EXHIBITION: MASKING THE PRESENT

Published September 22, 2019
The Skin We Live In (2019), Ahmed Ali Manganhar
The Skin We Live In (2019), Ahmed Ali Manganhar

Producing art from a reflection of personal experience is the most sincere form of expression. We can only truly understand what’s happening around us through our own individual encounters, and it is from there that we eventually form thoughts and perceptions of the world. Similarly, the artists participating in the show The Skin We Live In, held at Karachi’s Canvas Gallery recently, produced a series of works that mirrored their particular thoughts about life in a way that resounded with its audience.

The viewer is greeted with a collection of small paintings by Ahmed Manganhar, displayed on a wall in the first room of the gallery. The imagery in his work varies; with scenes of past and present-day Pakistan, it appears as a narrative that maps the artist’s journey. What’s most interesting about the work is the artist’s choice of surface to paint, that is, the chalk slate.

One of the initial (and now practically extinct) tools used for teaching children, the slate is a clear reminder of education, especially to those that have used them.

An exhibition highlights the evolving themes of reality and fiction in everyday scenarios through the works of four artists

Manganhar uses these surfaces as time capsules, capturing moments from his life which are recognisable scenes for most viewers as well and, hence, resonate on a deeper level. The fluidity and transparency in his paint application allows the grey surface of the slate to come through, making his work ghostly. Not only does it capture the moment, but also the tense emotion that accompanies it.

Chamak Patti On Mona Lisa (2019), Yaseen Khan
Chamak Patti On Mona Lisa (2019), Yaseen Khan

Another artist, Amna Rahman, while exploring her surroundings, presents a series of paintings that she divides into two parts. Rahman’s work has been centred on women and their issues. With layered brush strokes and a keen colour palette, she paints her friends in intimate settings, each painting offering a glimpse into her muse’s character.

The second part of her work includes a variety of dogs, including stray dogs. They bare themselves to the world and hide behind no façade. In contrast, their female counterparts appear hidden in the canvases. Rahman presents an interesting dichotomy between the two.

Her Gaze Emotionally Charged Me (2018), Amna Rahman
Her Gaze Emotionally Charged Me (2018), Amna Rahman

Anusha Ramchand further depicts the numerous masks humans wear. With references to social media emojis, the artist uses icons that are universally understood.She explores the lack of personal and authentic identities of people today. With technology removing the need for personal interaction, people can say what they want and be what that they want.

In contrast, artist Yaseen Khan’s work does the opposite. His work speaks of the linguistic barriers between various cultural groups of Pakistan. Coming from a background in truck maintenance, Khan has been long familiar with the chamak patti — a form of decoration used for local truck art.

Human Evolution (2019), Anusha Ramchand
Human Evolution (2019), Anusha Ramchand

He revitalises the craft to create meticulously detailed abstract works with the same material.

We sometimes overlook the constant progression of our thoughts and emotions, living the routine life, immersed in the day-to-day. However, it is artists such as these that remind us to stop and observe the change.

“The Skin We Live In” was displayed at Canvas Gallery in Karachi from September 3 to September 12, 2019

Published in Dawn, EOS, September 22nd, 2019

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