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

KARACHI: Recently, residents of Sindh became a little worried to know that the government intends to block the subscriber identification module (SIM) cards of those who either refuse to be vaccinated against the coronavirus or haven’t yet got their jabs. Whether it was a mere warning to push people to go for vaccination or a piece of gossip, it goes to show the great importance that people in the 21st century attach to hand-held devices.

This brings into focus the question of identity as well. The latest exhibition of artist Raheela Abro’s artworks titled SIM: Soch, Ilm, Muqaam that opened at the Canvas Art Gallery on Wednesday is an interesting study of the contemporary world seen through conventional eyes using a time-honoured technique.

What is that technique? Answer: miniature work. Now, whoever can convincingly convey an idea through miniatures must be hailed for their diligent practice and insightful understanding of the craft. Abro is one such artist. Her ability to make the delicate look grand and the subtle come across as significant is remarkable. The ongoing show is proof of it. The three Urdu words in the title mean ‘thought’, ‘knowledge’ and ‘place’. Connecting them with a modern-day contraption brings to light the confluence of tradition and newness of ideas; and at the same time underlines the diverging points of view that hint at the conflicts of identity in the ever-progressing world.

The technique that Abro employs (using SIM cards, sculptural mediums and found objects) in itself relays the message of the innumerable possibilities that society today has at its disposal. And that’s the crux of the matter: the yawning gap between the realm of physical proximity-spiritual closeness and the digital world. The artwork ‘Bookworm’ (oil and acrylics on cell phone’s SIM card and Plexiglas) is a fine example. The hole in the shape of a small card symbolises, or can symbolise, the blank spaces that are increasingly making our identities hard to define.

The exhibition concludes on Aug 6.

Published in Dawn, July 29th, 2021

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