As the winter months roll in, our generation’s battle with global warming and growing ecological concerns become even more pronounced, manifesting in the form of deadly smog in Lahore. Death tolls keep rising, the environment suffers and subsequent governments fail to get a hold on the matter while the brunt of the damage falls upon the disadvantaged class.
Maryam Rehman’s drawing, eponymously titled Navigating Matter, displayed at the show at Koel Gallery, is inspired from this hybrid semi-natural phenomenon and delves into its socio-political and philosophical underpinnings through accompanying video installations.
According to the artist’s statement, “The smog is mainly a result of air pollution from traffic and factories, smoke from brick kilns and crop burning.” While the poor man is the main victim of the smog, they also become a casualty of the solution, while the real culprits have nothing to lose. This is highlighted in the video work ‘The Cattle’, where familiar images and sounds of The Horse and Cattle Show and the noha of Asad Jehan — aired each year on 9th Muharram on PTV — are juxtaposed along with commentary by unnamed citizens about pollution, inflation and disregard for the poor. Visual connections can be made to the cattle exploited for material gains.”
A two-person show investigates the linkages between people and their natural and human-made environment
As the minimal drawings make use of sensitive mark-making to contemplate this fluid, formless matter and solidify it on to paper, the artist draws deeper connections to the human soul and its movement in the opposite direction; from solid form to vaporised, intangible being.
Through the works ‘Let Go’ and ‘Adrift’ the artist negotiates the process of dealing with this transition, of coming to terms with the passing of a loved one, setting them off into the next world, and perhaps capturing fragments of their being in the form of memories. This is done through markings made on leaves as a series of photographs chart their decaying process, and setting them free into flowing water to drift away — much as is the custom with sacred texts — documenting the process through video work.
Haider Ali Naqvi’s work, in a way, seems similar but with architecture and concrete bodies instead. His work charts the history of his ancestral homes through archival material, envelopes bearing addresses, names and dates, old photographs, marble address plates and traces of drawings. The work is visually striking, presented as almost an investigation, or a journal record brought to life-size, comprised of decaying sepia-tinted documentations collected by the artist from family members over the years.
The drawings done on tracing paper pick up the contours of the facades and offset them from the more detailed renderings, almost as if to denote a dislocation through time. The artist is also recording weather changes and their effects on man-made spaces and the ways in which these spaces have disintegrated over the years. This is done through severely rusted iron sheets, UV printed with old family photos taken in these buildings, with the medium itself acting as metaphor.
Both artists beautifully address the linkages between people and their environment, both natural and built, and investigate not only how each affects the other, but also the process of movement from one form to the other.
“Navigating Matter” was on display at Koel Gallery from 26th November to 9th December, 2019
Published in Dawn, EOS, December 15th, 2019