David Chalmers Alesworth - Photos: Saad Ahmed/Light Arch Studio
David Chalmers Alesworth - Photos: Saad Ahmed/Light Arch Studio

‘Something Borrowed Something New’ is a collaborative effort, hosting a range of established and upcoming artists at design house and gallery Copper & Steel. Arshad Farooqui, the curator of the show, is also a collaborator on each piece. He is the person behind the formalisation of the ideas of all of the 16 national and international artists in this metal-based show.

The exhibition is a product of the pandemic. Various innovative and novel projects have emerged from the many lockdowns the pandemic engendered. Farooqui has managed to showcase this very tangible exhibition of sculptural pieces that emerged from the virtual communication and dialogue between himself and the other artists.

“The sharing of ideas, thought processes and, in some cases, the borrowing of a space or a physical object became the starting point of this exhibition,” he says. “I started having Zoom meetings with my advisers and friends living abroad and discussed ways in which we could collaborate to develop an object in copper together.

“I started to develop and translate their ideas into actual objects with copper craftsmen... Artists and friends in Karachi borrowed an unfinished piece of my copper work and developed it further by adding their own innovations and ideas.”

A metal-based show brings together 16 national and international artists in a collaboration born out of the Covid-19 pandemic lockdowns

Each work, made specifically for this show, deals with different artistic concerns. Artist Ayesha Quraishi, for example, ‘borrowed’ an unfinished piece of metal from Farooqi and added her own twist to it. The piece titled Choose your Background, is straightforward compared to some of the more complex, technical sculptures included in the show.

Naiza H. Khan
Naiza H. Khan

Albeit visually simple, the work broaches and comments upon a very relevant subject. The rectangular, beaten copper slab demarcated down the centre, like an open book, has a wooden lintel of sorts on top that lends it a framed look. This pockmarked piece of copper transports one back in time before the invention of glass mirrors, when surfaces such as polished metal were used to check reflections.

Quraishi delves into notions of beauty, mirrors and the proliferation of filters and perceived images on social media, and other communication technologies. With this marked and shined piece of metal, Quraishi attempts to “reflect on our evolving self-image in a new era” — in the artist’s own words.

For artists like David Chalmers Alesworth and Naiza H. Khan, old conceptual trajectories were revisited to make something new, aided by their current interests. Alesworth’s piece Oak Leafed Lotus provides closure to a project initiated with metal craftsmen, endearingly called Bhaya back in 2002.

The original idea was a response to the Ghauri missiles that were popping up in folk culture and public spaces back then. However, the current complete piece is a fountain that combines the eastern Lotus flower with Druidic Oak leaves at its base, fanning out like a wreath, while the top is formed of a hybrid acorn-like shape that resembles an architectural finial and pineapple simultaneously. The focus on fauna is in line with Alesworths current artistic interests. It is a curious but very attractive piece of functional sculpture.

Thomas Daniell
Thomas Daniell

On the other hand, artist Naiza Khan’s piece, titled Iron Clouds, may be the beginning of a new visual trajectory. Back in 2009, Khan made a series of drawings with the same title; however, this piece differs in medium. Posing an imaginary investigation, Khan asked, “How do you measure a cloud?” at Monsoon Assemblages, a residency she participated in 2016.

Taking that idea forward, Farooqui managed to give shape to her query by welding copper in the shape of clouds. These metal clouds, with their geometrical edges and sharp corners are dark and weighed down like monsoonal skies, but unlike clouds that are able to float. The misshapen ziggurat-like shape embodies the ominous sense of peril that is part and parcel of the monsoon season that results in urban flooding and other similar catastrophes in South Asia.

Another intriguing piece of design on display is by architect Thomas Daniell. Inspired by traditional contraptions called Shishi Odoshi (animal frighteners) found in traditional gardens and farms in Japan, these implements are used to keep wildlife away.

This two-part structure called sōzu, originally crafted in bamboo, has been reimagined in copper. It allows for water to fill in a tube of copper until the weight of the water causes a balance shift. As the collected water pours out, the empty tube returns to its original position, hitting the base, causing a gentle clang sound. Similar to a seesaw, this piece encompasses elements of nature and physics and is a visual delight.

Besides the above-mentioned artists, the exhibit also showcases the works of Aamir Habib, Nuraya Shaikh Nabi, Andre Meyerhans, Mark Sexton, Rahul Mehrotra, Nondita Correa Mehrotra, David Harris Salkin, Dirk Denison, Ronlad Van Der Hilst, Affan Baghati, Syed Aqeel Bilgrami and Noorjehan Bilgrami.

‘Something Borrowed Something New’ was on display at Copper & Steel in Karachi, from March 31-April 9, 2022

Published in Dawn, EOS, May 1st, 2022

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