EXHIBITION: NATURE NURTURE

Published June 19, 2022
Jinnah Bagh, Anna Molka Ahmed
Jinnah Bagh, Anna Molka Ahmed

Aristotle once said, “In all things of nature, there is something of the marvellous.”

English poet George Gordon Byron, or simply Lord Byron, once wrote, “There is pleasure in the pathless woods, there is rapture in the lonely shore, there is society where none intrudes, by the deep sea, and music in its roar; I love not Man the less, but Nature more.” And even Michelangelo is quoted to have said, “My soul can find no staircase to heaven unless it be through earth’s loveliness.”

Our literature and histories are peppered with quotes and statements by prominent people about the importance of and their love for nature — a love that can be considered as a part of humankind’s core spirit. It’s an obsession that cannot be undone.

Even science supports that spending time in nature contributes to a feeling of wellbeing. That is evidenced by the fact that, throughout history, starting from the earliest cave drawings, visual artists too have been obsessed with preserving a little piece of nature in their artwork.

VM Art Gallery recently presented precious artworks from their permanent collection — some a century old — to pay a homage to nature

VM Art Gallery recently hosted ‘Scenic Route’, an exhibition celebrating nature in all of its glory and containing paintings from its permanent collection. Essentially a group show, ‘Scenic Route’ contained artworks from around the globe.

This included work by artists such as Ghulam Rasul, Anna Molka Ahmed, Albert Sheldon Pennoyer, Ghulam Mustafa, Muriel Yvonne McRocquee Hausser, Maahdi Zaman Baloch, U. Moe Htat Kyaw, Mubarak Husain, Wahab Jaffer, Thomas G, Greene, C. W. Jefferys, R. M. Taylor, Lawrence Arthur Colley Panton, Ross Nelwig, Carlo Tay and Peti.

With such an incredible breadth of artists, what was immediately noticeable was the sheer diversity of interpretations and approaches to landscape painting through the years. You could see the evolution of landscape painting and how different techniques crossed borders. While some paintings sported vibrant colours, others had more subdued hues. Most impressively, some of the paintings were touted to be almost one hundred years old.

One of the paintings that really stood out for this writer is Anna Molka Ahmed’s Jinnah Bagh. She is considered one of the pioneers of the art scene in Pakistan. Anna Molka Ahmed’s career spanned a whopping 55 years. She studied art at the St Martin School of Arts (now the Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design) and, later, at the Royal Academy of Arts — both in London — before returning to Pakistan. She was also awarded the Tamgha-i-Imtiaz (1963), the Pride of Performance (1969) and the Khadija Tul Kubra medal.

Her vividly detailed Jinnah Bagh is one of the more strikingly vibrant paintings exhibited in ‘Scenic Route’. Even now, years later, the oil paintings haven’t lost their hue and the sheer amount of detail: from the overhanging branches of the trees, the leaves in the shrubs and the diversity of colours of the flora in the park — from purple, to hues of orange, yellow and shades of green — is still clearly visible.

To have the privilege of viewing her work, among many other historical greats that are not with us anymore, was a privilege and a treat. Knowing that some of the artists exhibited are not with us anymore also lends a certain preciousness to their work. As if these are the rare times that one will get the opportunity to see them.

‘Scenic Route’ was exhibited at the V. M. Art Gallery, Karachi from May 19-June 6th, 2022

Published in Dawn, EOS, June 19th, 2022

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