Lahoris were recently treated to an exhibition of paintings at the Alhamra Gallery. This was preceded by much social fanfare and a bevy of assorted theatrical performances at the auditorium at the same venue. The objective was to highlight the nature and significance of musical instruments and music as a means of creative expression that hold universal appeal.

The exhibition itself attempted to tackle the same subject through miniature-style paintings made by Amna Ismail Pataudi and Sana Kazi Khan. The series of dance and singing performances were entertaining and thought provoking, though somewhat long-drawn prelude for a large and varied audience that thronged the premises on the day of the inauguration. An attempt was thus made to highlight the overlapping of the arts, be it vocal or instrumental music, dance or painting.

Pataudi, an accomplished artist who is also the administrator of the Shakir Ali Museum, Lahore, had paired up her efforts with the young, but a highly gifted artist, Sana Kazi Khan, a 2006 graduate of the NCA, Lahore. Titled ‘Silent decibles’, the series of paintings produced by these two artists revealed much skill, deep meditation and focused efforts that highlighted the beauty and significance of musical instruments and the maestros who made use of them.

However, as the curator of the exhibition Aasim Akhtar points out, the artists had “adopted an approach more intuitive than scholarly, more instinctive than methodical”. This is what gave the work its creative and artistic quality which may otherwise have become more like illustrations for educational purposes.

While the form and shape of various instruments like veena, tanpura, guitar, shehnai, violen, flute and a host of others were a source of inspiration for the artists, music masters such as Khwaja Khurshid Anwar, Gangubai Hangal, Mehdi Hassan, Alam Lohar, Vanessa Mae, Bob Marley and many others appeared in the paintings made in gouache, as well as mixed-media on wasli in the typically fine and precise miniature mode of painting.

Decorative elements intertwined with more esoteric nuances of thought and imagination were the hallmark of the exhibition, and the inclination towards idealism and the desire for universal appeal were evident.

Pataudi made use of rich reds and earth colours, fusing decorative and imaginative elements with stylised portraits in most of the works. There was an emotive quality in the depictions that bore testimony to the artist’s keen involvement in the subject she had chosen.

Khan had opted for a more stunningly realistic approach to portraiture, though, here too, the creative stylisation of compositions was finely tuned and depicted skill and aesthetic sensitivity. While most of Pataudi’s paintings were heavily layered and compactly coloured, Khan had a more lyrical and delicate as well as precisely detailed manner of painting.

The two artists take pride in the fact that their endeavour to highlight musical instruments and the maestros through painting is a unique and rather unmatched one. Their efforts have been made use of by the Online music museum, Crispus Industries, based in Washington, USA, courtesy Zafar Y. Ibrahim, the CEO of the museum. In fact, the museum has now lent the works for public viewing in Pakistan, and plans to show it in other countries as well.

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