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Still life and the commotion within

September 25, 2012

Toilet Roll (gouche on wasli).–Dawn Photo

KARACHI: Art experts believe it is difficult to show progression of a thought through miniature works. As a result what happens is that artists usually try and use small-scale techniques to freeze a moment in time or depict a certain epoch without the before-and-after hints. This is not the case with Sana Obaid though. An exhibition of her works curated by Syed Ammad Tahir that opened on Tuesday at the Chawkandi Art Gallery speaks volumes for her ability to convey big messages using methods that do require big canvases.

Obaid pleasantly surprises the viewer with her very first exhibit ‘Gulaab’ (gouache on wasli). The viewer is immediately alerted to the fact that the artist is intelligently employing everyday metaphors to touch on more important subjects. This is vindicated by ‘Afsana’ (ink on wasli). The effect of the blurred, brittle and dog-eared Urdu piece of literature with a picture of a woman transports the viewer to a different world altogether. It is clear that the artist is interested in her past or in the things that were once an integral part of our society.

She then turns to the ‘Still Life’ series (gouache on wasli), and this is where she explores her talent to the hilt. By creating known, regular images she strives to discover the inherent aesthetics, or the lack of it, in them. A sharpened pencil sounds like a commonplace object, but the artist has treated it as a subject that can be used as a metaphor for the Sisyphean struggle in life.

Still Life (gouche on wasli).–Dawn Photo
Still Life (gouche on wasli).–Dawn Photo

A gouache on wasli artwork depicting matchsticks works in the same direction. It reminds the viewer of a famous Jaun Elia couplet in which the poet suggests that while feeling agitated he burns matchstick after matchstick and puts them out. More than anything else, the ‘Still Life’ series is marked by finesse. It is doubly appreciable because the topics that Ms Obaid has chosen to delve into can be dealt with a certain sense of abstraction and by adopting free-flowing techniques. Instead she chooses to adopt a refined approach, and succeeds to a great extent. The exhibition, which also features two video presentations, will continue till Oct 3.