Naqsha opens at Koel

December 08, 2011

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KARACHI, Dec 8: It is quite a task to imbibe literary and mythological references and then employ them to facilitate or explore the process of self-discovery, in the sense that sometimes what one tries to express through art becomes one’s identity. This may be misconstrued as artistic subterfuge or interpreted as creative verisimilitude.

An exhibition of drawings titled Naqsha by Farina Alam (opened at Koel Gallery on Thursday) is an evidence of the artist’s journey towards discovery of the self as well as of the past that she’s, thankfully, not forgotten.

Ms Alam has divided her exhibits into three series. The first she’s given the rubric Sohna Gota Goddess, where she looks at South Asian culture with reference to concepts of ornamentation and desire. She says her drawings are inspired by Mughal miniature paintings and Firdausi’s Shahnama. However, viewing the first two pieces on display ‘Feast’ and ‘Roshni Ka Chiragh’ (ink drawing on black Somerset paper), it seems as if it is the mythological aspects of South Asian history that she’s drawn the most from. Whatever maybe the case, it catches the eye, because the choice of colours is earthly and readily identifiable.

The third series is to do with the issue of mass destruction in the contemporary framework using photo-etching, and with titles like ‘Bomb Flower’ and ‘Bomb Tokens’. It is a road Pakistani artists have often taken in recent times. So it might be futile to wax eloquent on it. Ms Alam impresses with the second series, Ana, which she translates as ‘I’ and not as ‘ego’, though she keeps her options open. Here she investigates the use of language in the coming together of constituents that one relates to with the phrase ‘being Muslim’.

Words — Arabic, English and Urdu — birds and reptiles creep or climb up the trees (in a few cases stuck in the trees), signifying quite a few things: the search for roots, the quest of finding meaning, the urge to learn and unlearn what was leant at an early age etc. It is a wonderful notion that Ms Alam is working around. Things become more understandable when one gets to know that the artist has returned to her country after 15 years.

‘Written on the Tree’ (ink drawing on cream Somerset paper) has Urdu words written in English — tawaif, namus, faqir. It creates a delightful conflict. She says there was a time when she heard those words in English. ‘Rose Petal Man’ (ink drawing on cream Somerset paper) validates her point because here she uses an English word ‘perfidy’ mainly because of its auditory appeal. The same exhibit also carries a translation of a Shakeel Badayuni couplet. For some odd reason, it also works well.

The exhibition will run till Dec 18.