Combining artists of different eras and disciplines is a challenging task for a curator, but in the month-long ‘Summer Show’ of the Canvas Gallery, Karachi, it was surmounted with élan in a display that constructed narrative from diverse compositions.
The 20 artists whose work was displayed were impressive and created an exciting diversity of expression. We cannot do other than translate the artworks into our own range of experience, but that perception does not declare closure of limitation but rather the beginning of dialogue. It was awesome to view a work of Zahoor Ul Akhlaque that one had never seen before, but as the recent book by Roger Connah proves; there were so many facets and depths to this artist, perhaps unrealised in his time.
Established artists included Abdul Jabber Gul, recently returned from a sculpture symposium in Korea, who revealed in his painting a broader way of occupying more explicit space while continuing the theme of the ‘Ordinary man’. R. M. Naeem’s paintings were so visually pleasing, his sensitivity to feelings induced by nuances of colouration that had one reluctant to move one’s eyes away.
In his studies of reclining figures, Ali Azmat is able to convey the mood of his subject without the inclusion of facial features and expressions. The most one is shown is a ‘profil perdu’, but his ability to communicate utter despair needs no words. Another enjoyable painting was the work of Babar Moghal, whose handling of the media is increasingly sensual, evoking an almost theatrical sense of drama. The work of Unvar Shafi Khan is not often seen locally in exhibition, so it was good to catch up with his very interesting and exotic print editions.
Arif Hussain Khokar’s graphite portrait, a life-sized back view of the head and shoulders of a young man, was made interesting by the immaculate linearity of the work, and diverse textures describing the work on paper.
A very impressive contribution to the show was that of Tapu Javeri whose five-by-five feet, beautifully put together montage of photo images, collage and colour deserved a wall space of its own.
Atif Khan’s ‘Sweet dreams’ was conveyed through fluttering insects, Nizakat Ali’s combination of miniature art with abstract collage, and Imran Channa whose ‘The making of history’ described fragmented images of the court of the Mughals, all made an important contribution to the manifold moods of the show.
Aroosa Rana’s work is always interesting if ambiguous, while Saba Khan contributes an element of witty storytelling. Farooq Mutafa was included with a beautifully worked piece from the ‘King’ series, and Salman Toor’s satirical ballpoint pen narrative, and the pristine perfection of Atiya Shaukat’s work, proved once more the individual viewpoint that continues to catch the imagination of art enthusiasts.
A classic artwork by Shakeel Saigol reminded one of portraits from the renaissance; when rich materials and handworked designs enhanced the sitter’s pose. In contrast the ‘Bread and butter’ still life painting of Abdul Malik Channa was touching in its misleading simplicity, a familiar sight viewed by a stranger.
An impression that carried numerous connotations was ‘Degas’ world’ painted by Ahmed Ali Manganhar, and the enigmatic and colourful ‘White blanket’ by Afshar Malik was another plus point of the show.
Without the presence of the artists, and before the visitors look into the gallery in the afternoon, it is rather enjoyable to draw one’s own conclusions to the work with apologies to the artists.