Three of the artworks on display at the exhibition.—White Star
Three of the artworks on display at the exhibition.—White Star

KARACHI: There’s an interesting expression in the English language: ‘not see the forest for the trees’. It means getting caught up too much in details that one cannot see the complete picture. An exhibition of Sara Riaz Khan’s paintings under way at the Canvas Art Gallery is named The Forest as a Dream. It turns the whole idea on its head by treating the subject as intangible, if not immaterial, reality … something that life often throws at us in the shape of happiness or sorrow.

Now the noun ‘nightmare’ has an inherent undesirable connotation; but ‘dream’ carries a multitude of possibilities. So by making the forest appear like a dream opens it up as a multilayered metaphor for the transient aspects of existence. Transient –– because a dream cannot last for a longish period.

Sara, interestingly, makes things easier for the viewer to grasp in order to know the drift of her creativity. “As I reflected on how to communicate my idea, four distinct stages came to mind: the initial paintings would focus on ‘approaching’ the forest while the second stage, ‘inhale/exhale’, would explore a coming alive of the senses; the third stage would be an ‘immersion’ in the experience, while the final paintings would be my interpretation of ‘being’ the forest.”

This sounds like philosophical musings. No, it’s not. The artist is trying to remind us of something important that we don’t pay enough attention to anymore –– nature as our saviour. That’s what makes life palatable, and in certain cases, enjoyable. One can connect the dots of this story with the help of the fact it’s the book Gossip from the Forest that ‘inspired’ Sara to embark upon this creative journey, considering it through binaries such as ‘hope and fear’. This is where nature plays a pivotal role. Having an affinity with it can make a person more hopeful than fearful, and Sara’s lovely artworks are indicative of that.

The exhibition concludes on Nov 28.

Published in Dawn, November 27th, 2019

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