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Contemporary drawing practice

March 08, 2008

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Drawing is the most fundamentally spiritual — i.e. completely subjective — of all visual art activities. Once considered foundational to all visual arts, the genre no longer enjoys the spotlight it once had. This prompts conjecture on its status and importance in current art practice.

Chawkandi Art Gallery`s latest hang `Lets draw the line` nudges viewers to explore the validity of the discipline through a wide trajectory of over seventy five drawings by as many as twenty two prominent artists of Pakistan. A collaborative effort of two young curators, Abdullah Syed and Roohi Ahmed, the show attests to the unique properties of drawing and its standing as the most intimate, immediate and versatile art medium.

Among the most basic and direct, (easily qualifying as bland or novel too), some works by new generation artists pushed the envelope as they went for a very contemporary take. Studying and questioning the visible in very low decibels, M A Talpur manipulated the power of the striated, naked line, alone and en masse, to advantage in his `Leeka` and `Bird flight` drawings. Equally austere Jamil Baloch`s rush of broad strokes pulsed to a much stronger beat of raw emotion.

Progressing towards lines/ strokes with the barest hints of a visual presence Rashid Arshad`s `Mother and child` and Sumaira Tazeen`s `Muwadda series,` though vastly apart in approach, invited speculation too.

Providing clues but still soliciting inquiry, abstruse drawings by a host of participants were essentially artist specific. Emanating from, relating to or complementing individual signatures these drawings were independent entities, preparatory studies for future paintings or just preliminary sketches.

Overlapping organic references like the bougainvillea leaf, peacock feather and sperm image, artist Aasma Hashmi had evolved an individual gender centric vocabulary. Similarly fetal images of the womb by Naiza Khan also defined personal gender concerns. Expressing symbolically Durriya Kazi portrayed the struggle to survive under trying circumstances through charcoal on paper.

When alluding to the metaphysical artists almost always create a personalised language. Meher Afroz`s floral symbol paired with the cross hatched porous mark making. But for Tassadaq Sohail fantasy was delineated in meticulous fine line detail in his pen and ink `Jewish dreams` series.
Figurative, pictorial drawings by artists Ather Jamal and R M Naeem upheld the norms of traditional drawing practice - direct, plausible and pleasing they affirmed the artists grasp of the medium by emphasising the familiar, standard act of drawing. However, in Moeen Faruqi, Jabbar Gull, Rabia Zuberi and Nahid Reza`s semi-abstractions, it was the artists` special vocabulary, his/her signatures that dominated the drawing experience.

Curator Roohi Ahmed continuing with her `mapping` idiom had added the ECG cardiogram graphics to her repertoire to comment on the geo-political boundaries and unrest within the country. Likewise Abdullah Syed`s `Anthology of Anar` (pomegranate) was also politically motivated and engaged attention more for his clever manipulation of the image and word anar to infer Anar-kali, Anar-chy and so forth, than for his drawing ability. As curators both artists deserve a pat on the back for undertaking the arduous task of envisioning this show and persuading artists to submit meaningful work to it.

The discipline of drawing tunes the sensitivity of the drawer to a higher pitch. Minus the dazzle of colour, sans embellishment and the trappings of mix media, the drawn image emerges as the most honest manifestation of an artist`s intention and almost all the works in this exhibition qualified as candid expressions reflective of personal identity. Showcasing the growth of contemporary drawing, the artists had presented imagery that refers as much to the language of life around us as it does to fine art. The drawings communicated information, narrated a story, created a scenario or conjured a world or a system of belief.

Seen in unison this exhibition can shed new analysis on the tradition of drawing in our art milieu. Examining the importance of drawing as a contemporary art form and the dynamic ways in which artists are pushing the medium into new, creative territory the show encourages viewers to redefine their notion of drawing, its aesthetic range, visual power and expressive potential. Along with examples of innovative approaches to the medium, the selection included works by artists who exploit, in extraordinary ways, traditional aspects of drawing. n