Ali Asad Naqvi, Shamsuddin, Suleman Khilji and Wardha Shabbir are fresh NCA graduates who have taken the initiative to emerge as serious practitioners of art by holding a group show of their fresh works at The Drawing Room art gallery, Lahore.
Curated by Fazal Rizvi, also an NCA graduate of the same class, the exhibition is outstanding in terms of thoughtful and genuine self expression, and engages the viewers by the quality of both technique and content. It is indeed “not just another group show,” as claimed by the title given to it by its curator.
Naqvi’s mixed media drawings on somerset paper are a sensitive amalgam of tradition and a fresh approach to pattern making. The source of inspiration is the illuminated pages of the Holy Quran, but there is a deliberate omission of calligraphy and an emphasis on the timeless beauty of geometrical motifs. The eight works titled, ‘Safha’ or page, are similar in character and yet each ‘safha’ has its own unique individuality, both in terms of medium and content.
Shamsuddin’s untitled miniature paintings made in gouache on wasli are an expression of the artist’s personal dilemmas and tribulations that emerged as a consequence of the change of environment he experienced after leaving his village and settling in the city. Including portraiture as well as motifs and symbols to express a sense of both loneliness and the feeling of being overwhelmed by his surroundings, he displays sensitive painterly skill as well as an ability to create patterns that convey feelings in a symbolic way.
Khilji’s interest lies in capturing the depth and darkness of views that he observes in his nocturnal surveys of his native city, Quetta. The routine of his life includes late night escapades in the city, taking photographs of whatever takes his fancy, and converting these into oil paintings that convey a mood that includes both nostalgia and introspection. Animal forms predominate, and the dominant colour is blue, offset by bright red. As a Balochi Pashtun, Khilji is obviously disturbed about what goes on in his hometown and considers himself as someone who sometimes might appear like ‘the angel from hell’, but who nonetheless channelises his energies in his creative endeavours. His musings may be dark and even desperate, but the element of hope remains.
Shabbir’s work, in fact, emerges as the most interesting and sensitive. It also displays a fascinating ability to be creative and spontaneous while maintaining a high level of aesthetic appeal. Shabbir’s narratives are invariably based on personal dilemmas, but they also comment on social predicaments and human anomalies.
Combining animal faces with human forms, her hybrid creatures are both fascinating and disturbing in their symbolism. The element of decorativeness, especially when viewed from a distance, is deliberately created to both beguile the viewer and satisfy the artist’s penchant for beauty. A variety of mediums have been explored, including miniature style painting, embossed impressions, scratching on paper and mixed media. ‘The drawing book’ which displays a series of works in a large book format, is an especially engaging diary-like narrative of the artist’s creative musings and innermost feelings.
Each of the artists has a unique style and technique, but the curator has managed to bring them together in a coherent way. These young practitioners of art do indeed come across as both insightful and committed, and they have begun their creative journey in a manner that is likely to take them far.