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Master at work

September 26, 2012

Castle in the sand. — Photo by White Star

KARACHI, Sept 26: Mansur Salim is an exceptional artist. He belongs to that rare breed of painters that Pakistan seems to have stopped producing. His art teases the mind, stirs the soul and touches the heart.

Why? Answer: it is the content (spiritual, dream-like, satirical and thought-provoking) that hits you first after which you do not really care what media the artist has used to propagate his message.

An exhibition of Mr Salim’s works titled ‘An Adventurous Approach’ opened at the Art Chowk Gallery on Wednesday. There are a little over 30 artworks on display and all of them require a prolonged viewing to get the hang of them. Be it his wood panels or pieces done on canvas, the trademark Mansur Salim touch can be felt throughout.

However, the title of the show is a bit misleading. The word ‘adventure’ limits the scope of the artist’s creative endeavour.

The exhibition begins with seven paper works. ‘The First Cube on Earth’ (watercolour and ink on paper) immediately gives away the artist’s spiritual leaning. But his fertile imagination comes to the fore with a striking artwork called ‘Third Eye through Burning Triangular Frame’ (watercolour on paper).

Thatta structure. — Photo by White Star

The eye is drawn through a triangular one side of which is set aflame as well as through the firmament creating a surrealistic effect, looking at which might make any viewer undergo a process of introspection.

‘Geometry and Realism’ (oil on canvas) is an intelligent take on how mechanically sometimes art is judged and how it should be analysed. It is a picture of an old structure whose plaster is coming off with sparse patches of grass in the foreground. Triangles and circles are drawn on top of it as if the picture is being examined (the some of Renaissance paintings were examined by critics). Insightful stuff!

By the way, not all of the works are dealt with in a roundabout way. One amazing piece is titled ‘Anarkali-lization’ (oil on canvas). A woman’s feet on the edge of a building with a block of an apartment building in the background is an image that will stay with you for a long, long time. This is followed by Mr Salim’s tribute (or homage) to colonial buildings in Sindh. It is done in an impressive realistic style.

With ‘Gravity Shield, My Yellow Foxy’ (oil on canvas) the artist combines nostalgia, realism and hallucination to come up with a weirdly enduring picture. The levitated Volkswagen is a sight to behold.

Pakistani ‘Avant-Garde’ (oil on canvas) is a commentary on how artists use, sometimes exploit and occasionally take advantage of various folklores, spiritual movements and oriental theories. ‘Spiritual Flight’ can be likened to a scene out of a film that can either be admired or be alarmed about.

The exhibition will be open till Oct 9.