Colour as storyteller

February 26, 2020

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FIVE of the acrylic paintings on display at the exhibition on Tuesday.—White Star
FIVE of the acrylic paintings on display at the exhibition on Tuesday.—White Star

KARACHI: It has almost become clichéd to say that colours have a language of their own. But it’s true. What painters achieve with colours is no less significant or effective than what writers or poets accomplish with words. Keeping this parallel in mind, it goes without saying that inapt use of shades and hues can distort a straightforward message in more ways than one. Dr Shaista Khan, a two-day exhibition of whose acrylic paintings opened in the Arts Council of Pakistan Karachi’s Manzar Akbar Hall on Tuesday, is aware of this fact.

There’s another reason for drawing the writer-painter parallel. The invite to the show has two names as speakers at the opening ceremony: Dr Pirzada Qasim and Prof Sahar Ansari. This suggests that the artist is familiar with the interconnected nature of all forms of expression. After all, it’s all about storytelling, whether one is telling it through phrases or images.

So back to the storytelling aspect of the exhibition: Dr Shaista is not interested in a single ‘ism’ to communicate her subject matter to the viewer. At the heart of her creative expression are the situations that her characters find themselves in. The viewer can see hazy and semi-cryptic images against backdrops that are identifiable for one reason: the colours that she uses. Some of us might find them a bit on the loud side. That’s understandable. The loudness is part of the globe that we now inhabit. The contemporary world is full of noise and cacophony. Dr Shaista turns that into black, green and yellow etc and nicely merges them with her protagonists so that they come across as veritable figures in the tale she wants to familiarise the viewer with.

The storyline has multiplicity to it. The character holding an umbrella whose face is not visible, the whirling figure, the girl on whom colours drip ominously and the series of faces are all flesh and blood — belonging to our world where sounds outdo visuals.

Published in Dawn, February 26th, 2020