Haal opens at Canvas

April 03, 2012

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KARACHI, April 3: Poet and critic T. S. Eliot was no ordinary individual. When he set out to write poems, he knew ‘time’ was of the essence.

His masterpieces look back in time so that the future could be seen in that light. In one of his poems he writes, “Time present and time past/Are both perhaps present in time future/And time future contained in time past.” This is self-axiomatic and difficult to dispute. But two young artists S.M. Raza and Raheela Abro, whose exhibition entitled ‘Haal’ commenced at the Canvas Art Gallery on Tuesday, are focusing on just one period: time present. One has to admit that despite not having the benefit of hindsight or retrospection (since they are very young, in their twenties) their analysis of the present is stimulating.

S. M. Raza is a young man with a great deal of talent. Raza’s flair is marked by his ability to genuinely feel the pain of the society he belongs to. Not too long ago, he used to be statement-oriented, that is, he would express what he saw in literal terms. The work on display demonstrates the gradual maturity of his art.

Raza’s first two pieces ‘Greenness’ (charcoal & water colour) and ‘Greenery’ (water colour, charcoal on ink) have understated symbolism.

The exhibits’ titles give away what the colour green represents (naiveté, religiosity etc). Just when the viewer senses a kind of predictability, the artist surprises, in a rather pleasant way, with his remarkable untitled artwork done in pencil, water colour and ink.

The reason for not assigning a name to it is apparent. There’s a delightful obviousness to the painting which makes its satirical aspect all the more sharp. Four persons (one of them is Janus-faced) seem to be addressing a gathering and have in front of them corncobs as microphones.

The viewer can read ‘corn ference’ written in the background. It’s a striking work of art. Not far behind is Raza’s noteworthy commentary on the volatile political situation in a piece called ‘Kis Ne Maara Kon Mara’ (mixed media on paper). The pile of men with a not so prominent splash of red in the mix is a fine way of underlining the blame game that ensues after every act of violence which jolts the country. ‘Ghora’ (charcoals and water colour) reverts to Raza’s preoccupation with guns by not just giving an equestrian shape to the weapons but also telling the viewer that in Urdu slang ghora is used to define gun triggers.

Raheela Abro does not markedly deviate from the subject. However, she employs dogs as a symbol with multiple meanings. The series ‘Bhonkna Mana Hai’ (oil on sim) does not need any explanation. Clearly the artist is frustrated with the cacophony that surrounds her. The same is implied in a different way in the exhibits ‘Talk Show’ (oil on sim) and ‘Bolti Band’ (oil and acrylic on sim). Modern-day issues are dealt with in a purely modern-day, miniaturist style. The most hard-hitting artwork that Raheela Abro comes up with is called ‘Jalsa’ (oil and acrylic on sim) with microphones placed in front of a dog. Impressive work.

The exhibition will continue till April 12.