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Group Art: Out of the box

November 14, 2010

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Arecent, week-long printmaking workshop, in which 13 artists participated, was conceived and coordinated by the head of the printmaking department at the Indus Valley School Ussman Ghauri assisted by Rabeya Jalil. Not only did the artists produce outstanding work, it was surprising to note that several of them whose work is associated with bright colour introduced dramatic new dimensions to it.

The idea began in April this year when the notable Australian printmaker Michael Kempson exhibited his work in Karachi and won the audience over with a very accessible and interesting talk on the subject. In turn, Kempson was impressed by the artists he met and the work in process and the idea of a workshop shared with professional artists was raised. At that time it appeared a distant dream, but Ghauri, with the cooperation of Abdullah Sayeed and Roohi Ahmed, tenaciously organised the programme around Kempson’s busy programme, and the ‘Box print portfolio’ programme enthusiastically took place.

Meher Afroz, who had considerable experience in printmaking during her student days at the Lucknow School of Art, initiated considerable interest in the media in Pakistan in the ’70s, and for four consecutive years she was the recipient of awards from National Art Exhibitions. While a faculty member of CIAC, she has held several workshops in which diverse groups participated and the interest spread in art circles. Conversant with all media Afroz reinforces her imagery with signs, marks and symbols, which she avers, “have always been a source of inspiration.”

Kempson’s print portrays a collection of empty Pakola bottles as background to an arrangement of seedpods of the Banksia plant, an Australian emblem. A central theme of his work is objects used to define and distinguish identity. Sumaira Tazeen’s beautifully executed etching is a continuation of a theme devised in her student day. At that time she created prints composed of tea-sets in crates, a reference to the dowry system. Her recent work transformed the theme into the contents of a grid, which she explained, actually brought focus to the piece.

Two very gifted artists, whose understanding of linear possibilities is outstanding, are Adeel us Zafar and Nasir Ahmed Bhurgri. Their work in the field of printmaking is exemplary.

Uzma Noor’s etching was inspired by the Kewra salt mines. “The world I live in is filled with the most amazing shapes and colours. For every dark there is a light…” The well-balanced composition is an example of the exciting possibilities within the range of printmaking.

Eschewing colour from a figurative theme added a new sense of narrative to the work of Moeen Faruqi. The light and shaded areas of the mixed-media print electrify the ambience of the work adding intriguing emotional contents to it. Romila Kareem continued a current sequence on the enigma of the ‘Garden of Eden’, combing areas of design, graceful leaves and flowers with the harsh element of barbed wire. Abdul Jabbar Gull, known as a versatile artist and primarily a sculptor, was intrigued by the outcome. He is another artist who will take the media further.

Jalil’s etching was titled ‘Corrected’. Her organic subject was seen as an offering to public approval, as she stated, “catering to what society states as acceptable.”

Initially, it was difficult to digest the work of the popular neo-realist Shakeel Siddiqui; his super authentically truthful paintings are so well-known. Yet, on further examination, the print wove a spell of its own. The gifted, much travelled artist Munawar Ali Sayeed combines a fascinating combination of elements he describes as “issues one faces when living in a city,” combining elements and objects with great success.

Ghauri, whose aim is to open a professionally equipped printmaking studio for artists at the IVSAA, is within sight of his goal. His experience in printmaking is extensive and he has taught the subject at IVS for over a decade. His immaculate work in show combines portraiture and nature. “The figure the face the tree the leaf…”