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Allegory and art

October 30, 2012


KARACHI, Oct 30: An exhibition of German artist Susanne Husemann’s works titled ‘Allegory of Painting’ opened at the V.M. Art Gallery on Tuesday.

The show is part of the ongoing series of German cultural programmes in the city.

Since allegory is one of the many tools that poets use to propagate their ideas as painters usually employ symbols for the same purpose, it becomes all the more interesting when an artist tries to put across a point through allegorical interpretation. In such an artwork every character or event represents either an idea or a quality.

At the V.M. Art Gallery, oil on canvas, oil on cardboard and artworks done on wood series are on display. That’s not where the charm of Ms Husemann’s art lies. It is the remarkable nuggets from everyday, middleclass life that the artist has painted which makes the viewer marvel at her gift.

According to her statement, Susanne Husemann is inspired by the 17th century Dutch master Jan Vermeer. It is interesting to note that Vermeer did not enjoy the kind of success he richly deserved in his lifetime. Much like the English poet, John Donne, he was resurrected quite late after his death (19th century). The master’s genius lay in his splendid delineation of middleclass household, particularly the interiors of their houses, and his mystique-laden depiction of the fair sex. ‘The Allegory of Faith’ and ‘Art of Painting’ are Vermeer’s works that experts have categorised as his history paintings.

Susanne Husemann remains faithful to the master. Her depiction of such a lifestyle, coupled with a mysteriousness surrounding the characters, is worth viewing. ‘Allegory of Painting 1’ (oil on canvas) freezes a scene that draws not just a character in a certain setting but a whole environment signifying the socioeconomic section of society that the subject belongs to. The colours are dusky and shadowy, which enhance the ambience of the view.

In one of the ‘Allegory of Painting’ series, she paints a homespun picture. I say picture and not characters because that’s what stands out from the artwork. It is the entirety of allegorical representation that strikes almost at the same time. And the lightness of shades in the background gels well with the theme of the picture.

‘What is a Painting’ (oil on cardboard) draws on the beauty of innocence, among other things. It is special stuff because the colours in the image play second fiddle to the girl’s (subject) expression.

The exhibition will continue till Nov 10.