Tragic statements

June 26, 2011


Pak Pak Pakistan, S.M. Raza


“Tanao is any kind of tension in an object or a person. It always refers to mental stress of feelings of restlessness.

In today’s world we have felt that everyone in general is going through a phase of mental unrest and emotional turmoil. Our work as it developed seems to have moved in the direction of expressing and exploring this emotion of discontent. Though each of our work differs in medium, it is the content that brings it together.

Tanao to us, is an internal feeling of extreme stress that has been smothered over a prolonged period of time which leads to unrest.” (Joint statement of the artists)

History has been documented through art. Throughout the ages artists have reflected the society of their times. As sensitive people they absorb the experience of their surroundings which they express in varied creative viewpoints. Observing the group show, ‘Tanao’, recently mounted at Chawkandi Art Gallery, Karachi, one feels that in years to come we shall leave behind a tragic statement of the present times.

Showing their work together, eight attractive young people with promising art potential, graduates all from Karachi University visual arts department, created art touched with violence, cynicism and one might say, despair.

S. M. Raza showed guns, knives and helpless victims in beautifully delineated graphite works. A painting titled, ‘Still life’, was a shocker since, instead of an array of comforting tea cups and flowers, one found artistically arranged weapons of violence.

Raheela Abro continued with her series of miniature painted chess pieces, the pawns that represent what she describes as the ‘weakest pieces in the game of chess’.

Amber Imam incorporates a number of objects in her mixed media pieces, as she recounts her impressions of a recent trip to Iran. Referring to calligraphy, arabesque and geometry, it was intriguing to note that the artist used the Honda motorcycle as a symbol of the people of Iran, stating that it is the only common object she found between Pakistan and Iran.

It was a pleasure to view the skillfully executed oil on canvas paintings of Sahar Jawaid and Sofia Mairaj. In one of Jawaid’s images outspread hands appeared to be throwing flower petals in the air; but in a continuation of the sequence, the floating shapes took on a more sinister suggestion.

As a subject of her work, Mairaj had taken the pomegranate, a widespread symbol in many cultures and myths. The artist’s still life was a pleasant visual experience, though the second painting in the series depicting a virile looking young man offering the “fruit of desire with a direct gaze” Mairaj described as making one feel “very uncomfortable.”

Observers will translate the meanings of the paintings into their own experience, but the male subject of the painting was much too attractive to be ‘threatening’.

Fariha Nadir’s work has been viewed in exhibition in Karachi with great interest. She is a sculptor in metal, and miniaturist, and here she combines the two disciplines using the profile of the Quaid-i-Azam as her subject. Seen on a coin facing a similar pose of the Queen of England made an interesting study, but her skills were most evident in the small metal portrait set in a frame decorated with traditional miniature painted designs.The graphite pieces of Nayareen Farooq represented the “stress lines on the bark of a tree”, caused by an intervening stem. This natural phenomenon is used by the artist to signify the stress felt by the pressure of society.

Fragmented studies of miniature work on a larger scale were mixed media artworks by Sheema Khan. Particularly interesting were several faces watching the wasli of their particular court painting being cut up by scissors decorated with cursive script.In the exhibition the theme elucidates a preoccupation with the complexities of the times, But art can also display the legacy of a creativity that has survived and will continue to do so. These are artists to watch out for.