EXHIBITION: STREET ART

Published February 4, 2024
Ascent, Sanki King
Ascent, Sanki King

The spacious, tree-lined grounds of Port Grand in Karachi became an open-air gallery for ‘Galiyon Ke Rang’, a street art festival conceived and curated by the irrepressible Pomme Amina Gohar. The awami [local] character of street art sets it apart from art displayed in the formal environment of the enclosed gallery space.

There is an implicit trust between the viewing public and the exhibiting artists to engage with the artwork in good faith, as there are no protective barriers to guard street art. This direct interchange between artist and public allows for raucous artwork to co-exist with the restrained, enabling a lively and wildly eclectic mix of artistic outcomes. This dynamic was strategically deployed by the multifaceted design of the four-day festival.

Almost 30 artists showcased their creations in ‘Galiyon Ke Rang’ and a wide range of art genres were on display. Highly conceptual installations, such as Talhakaar’s 3-D Wonder created with LED lights and mirrors, Hina Tabassum’s fibreglass teddy bears in We Are All The Same, and Sanki King’s light projection titled Ascent, contrasted with artwork using traditional media of canvas and paint.

Among the many noteworthy displays, the stall manned by students from Lyari stood out. It presented a rare opportunity to see art emerging from this underrepresented locale, which is among the oldest and most congested areas of Karachi.

An open-air festival captured the vibrancy and visual interplay that street art has to offer

The artwork by the Lyari students of the Maraawan Art Academy consisted of skilfully drawn pencil portraits and one monumental wall mural done in colour titled I Am You. The mural depicted the faces of people from different regions of Pakistan. Artists Munawar Ali Syed, Shahana Munawar and curator Pomme Gohar had facilitated no less than 54 students in creating this mural, by combining technological and drawing skills.

Two interesting installations flanked the Lyari stall. Rameez Abdul’s installation comprised a grid drawn on the ground. Unusual, melted acrylic bits were placed on the squares of the grid. Rameez had twisted these pieces in a live performance on the opening night. His specially designed costume, comprising a jacket and headgear covered in black mirror hexagons, added to the theatrical moment.

A monumental iron and fibre sculpture by Umaina Khan was extraordinarily eye-catching. Visible from the entrance gates of Port Grand, the sculpture, titled The Play Date, was a pun on the notion of women being treated as playthings. The very tall and slender construction was a totemic representation of a female figure. The entire surface was clad with hundreds of tiny toys, making this artwork the most colourful one at the festival.

The Play Date, Umaina Khan
The Play Date, Umaina Khan

A very different colour dynamic played out in Behram Farooqi’s intelligently conceived installation, which showed that shades of a single colour can convey great emotional content. The installation, titled Loss, acknowledged the atrocities being perpetrated in Gaza. Loss depicted seven long mounds of sand representing graves. Each mound had a row of small flags. The colour of the flags changed from white in the front row through a succession of pink hues to deep red in the last row.

Moving from the outdoors into the indoor space, an art gallery and a stairwell area became the two enclosed spaces to showcase smaller installations and paintings. The stairwell had been creatively repurposed as a “Memory Museum.” Artists had been invited to express their emotions regarding cherished relationships by retrieving memories and giving them a shape through artwork.

A diverse range of figurative and abstract paintings, ready-made objects — including a grandparent’s transistor radio — and a thread sculpture, occupied this space that was poignant with thoughts on love and loss.

A very special installation in this section was the curator’s Tribute to My Father. This festival was originally scheduled to open in October 2023, but Gohar’s father tragically passed away just days before the opening. With tremendous support from all participating artists, she rescheduled ‘Galiyon Ke Rang’ for its January iteration as a commemoration to her beloved father Aitzaz Shahbaz.

Her installation was composed of a table and chair on which she had displayed objects that defined his personality. His red jacket was draped on the chair. He had promised to wear it to the opening of the show which he was not destined to attend, thus its presence was a profound reminder of his absence.

‘Galiyon Ke Rang’ delivered the kaleidoscope of visual sensations promised by public art. Arguably, such a project that counters boundaries of class and education proves that within the embrace of art abides the true spirit of democracy.

‘Galiyon Ke Rang’ was on display at Port Grand in Karachi from January 11-14, 2024

The writer is an independent researcher, writer, art critic and curator based in Karachi

Published in Dawn, EOS, February 28th, 2024

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