The ongoing search

08 Jan 2020


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

KARACHI: A two-person show titled The Search opened at the Koel Art Gallery on Tuesday evening.

The marked feature of the exhibition, which will conclude on Jan 16, is that both participating artists — Minaa Haroon and Muhammad Ashraf — have chosen diametrically opposed subjects (everyday life objects and nature, respectively) to express themselves with the same purpose of ‘search’. What is this search?

Well, for Ashraf, “The subject of the project comprises two flowers ‘sumbal — red flower’ a tree that matches its name in beauty, and ‘amaltas — yellow flower’, which is also called umeed ka phool: flower of hope. Lahore, the city of gardens, appears mind-blowing at the time of bloom of these trees and the project attempts to articulate awe and admiration for this bloom. I have nostalgic relation with Lahore’s landscape painting.”

On the other hand, Haroon says, “My work is responding to looking at everyday objects as they speak of our desires. I am interested in the physiological and physical possibilities inherent in an object. Objects invite you through their gestures and have their own lives. This body of work is about looking at the everyday and mundane where I can make visible the intangible and inexplicable possibilities that exist in our everyday life.”

The reason for quoting from the artists’ statements is that these are two entirely different strands of thought. Somehow they come together. Where do they come together? Answer: in the world of art. Yes, and it’s not that complicated to decode. Art reflects life, and in some cases gives you the opportunity to reflect on life. So if Ashraf is reflecting on life through nature, with his delightful ‘Sublimity and Melancholy’ series (carving and oil on wood), Haroon is doing the same by philosophically mulling over objects such as ‘Tissue Paper’ (silver aluminium) and ‘Bed’ (inkjet print with pigment inks on Hahnemuehle paper).

And in the process, the two drive an important point home: the search for meaning in life can be extracted out of all those things that human beings interact with on organic as well as inorganic levels. The one thing that mustn’t be ignored is what we remember most is that which affects us most — beauty, grief and things with physical attributes that heighten the poignancy of the non-physicality of emotion.

Published in Dawn, January 8th, 2020