SOME of the artworks displayed at the exhibition.—White Star
SOME of the artworks displayed at the exhibition.—White Star

KARACHI: One can never underrate the importance for artists of having a perspective on the socio-political goings-on that unfold around them on a regular basis. The consensus today, to a large extent, is that the artist community cannot remain detached from the world that exists outside of their studios. So the old concept of painters and sculptors leading secluded lives is a bit out of vogue. This is the reason that a four-person show titled Viewpoint that’s under way at the Koel Art Gallery is an important event to go to.

The participating artists — Bilal Khalid, Hamid Ali Hanbhi, Muneeb Aaqib and Sajid Khan — are names with established credentials, therefore their ‘views’ on the subjects that they’ve chosen to express themselves about are worth lending an ear to.

What are their subjects? Well, they range from death to memories. Doesn’t that cover a huge spectrum! The reasoning is all the more interesting. The curatorial note for Bilal, for example, says, “The work represents the way life is recycled and reproduced. Death is not the end but a step towards eternal life.” This reminds one of a famous Urdu verse:

Marg ik maandgi ka waqfa hai
Yani aagey chalein gey dumm le ker

[Death is but a pause we take when tired
We’ll have a breather and move forward]

Hamid’s works have two segments — one highlights the floods that hit Sindh and Balochistan in 2010 through landscapes, and the other is portraits of visually impaired people. While the note claims that what connects the two is the medium — kohl powder — one feels it’s the empathetic heart and soul of the artist which is the common factor here. Without compassion such artworks can’t be produced.

Sajid seeks beauty in the unpalatable occurrences that he sees and hears about. He is aware of the bitter fact that unbridled negative energy is making the world go awry, but he wants to extract aesthetically pleasing sceneries out of the not-so-aesthetic visuals. He seems to believe in John Keats’s dictum:

Beauty is truth, truth beauty, that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know

Muneeb brings the ‘viewpoint’ back from the physical to the psychological. “I make drawings which originate from thoughts and memories that are a consequence of experiencing place and paying attention.” This implies that what he sees as a traveller or an observer enables him to grasp the transient but pleasing nature of existence — as in, change is the only constant.

All of these perspectives, nay viewpoints, are fascinating to watch and absorb.

The exhibition will conclude on March 24.

Published in Dawn, March 23rd, 2021

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