SOME of the artworks put on display at the exhibition.—White Star
SOME of the artworks put on display at the exhibition.—White Star

KARACHI: Quddus Mirza is a renowned artist, critic and educator revered by artists and art lovers alike. So when he decides to put up a show of his latest body of work, it is no regular exhibition – it’s a significant event.

The show titled ‘Once Upon Many Times’ which is under way at the Canvas Art Gallery proves yet again how Mirza uses colours and strokes to create a powerful expression. The expression is largely to do with the goings-on that he gets to see, observe and experience around him on a daily basis. What are they?

To find answer to this question the one-line statement, call it a one-liner if you like, will more than suffice. He says, “The act of painting is a means to confront, control and combat the acts of violence in our surroundings”. Now let’s break down this claim which begins with the verb ‘act’. Painting is not a mere habit or profession for him; it is also ‘to do something’. Do something about what? About the violence that takes place in his surroundings. What can be done about it? Now that’s the most important bit of the argument.

Mirza’s idea of doing something about it is in the order of: confront, control and combat. The middle part speaks of restraint, but the first and third bits are where he feels that as an artist he must catch the bull by the horns.

This is more than evident in his lush and vibrant paintings. The diverse images that he has put together in pieces such as ‘Cityscape’ and ‘Still Life’ (oil and mixed media on canvas) are indicative of the times we live in – erratic, uncertain with a constant flow of information. The thing that connects these elements to make sense of the hullabaloo is Mirza’s bold, in-your-face colours and layered strokes, creating a whirlpool of a world constantly in flux. A visual treat, and leaves much to mull over.

The exhibition concludes on Sept 16.

Published in Dawn, September 15th, 2021

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