KARACHI: The pandemic hasn’t just caused problems related to physical health it has affected people’s mental health with equal, if not more, viciousness. This is largely to do with the fact that until recently lockdown had forced everyone to remain indoors, confined to the four walls of their homes. There was little interaction with other humans and nature, resulting in a spiritual kind of asphyxiation. An exhibition of watercolour paintings by Muntehaa Azad titled Sub Bund Hai opened at the Full Circle Gallery on Friday. The title is poignant and straightforward. It is in the context of the shutdown made into an inevitable act by the Covid-19 pandemic.
The artist elucidates in her statement, “The sight of life was now vanishing into the haze of my landscapes. Covid-19… as if the whole planet was chained, locked and numb. But as time passed, it started looking mysteriously beautiful, calm and natural. And what astonished me the most was that I started losing a part of me so smoothly as if a snake sheds its skin with the ease and quite of nature to grow and become a little more of one’s self. These watercolours and part of the process which is still ongoing within me and around all of us.”
Azad is right; it’s an ongoing exercise as well as an experience. But the sensitivity and control with which she has made the artworks is praiseworthy. These are no simple pieces of watercolour — they are rich in symbolism and top-notch in execution. For example, the simple use of a padlock (tala) with reference to the shutdown mentioned above in works such as ‘Sunehri Tala’ is exemplary. It springs to mind the Urdu translation of the word lockdown which is talabandi. She insightfully puts across the point that difficulty induces growth and art trumps hard times with conviction.
Then there is the warm softness of watercolours. The landscapes and other tributes to nature are a visual treat, which, in a way, move side by side with the issues touched upon by the artist, as if suggesting: beauty and travails must be looked at in tandem.
The exhibition concludes on Jan 28.
Published in Dawn, January 16th, 2022