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Psychedelia, expression and symbols

January 16, 2013

Irfan Hasan making a self-portrait. Photo by White Star
Irfan Hasan making a self-portrait. —Photo by White Star

KARACHI: It reminded the visitors of a psychedelic zone out of a Pink Floyd song: trance music, incessant, thumping drum beats, artists immersed in their world, soaked in colours, lost in their thoughts and gesticulating like people affected by a cataclysmic event. On Monday evening an event titled ‘Riwhtyi: one night stand’ curated by Amin Gulgee at the Amin Gulgee Art Gallery brought together more than 25 artists for an intriguing show of performing art. For the want of a more comprehensive expression, it proved to be an engaging experience.

The show played more on symbolic representation of things, as most art exhibitions do, rather than literal interpretation of life and its intricacies. Almost all the artists, who were not allowed to talk to the visitors, had their own spots in four parts of the gallery, including outside the main entrance. They were creating art then and there.

Affan Baghpati, Shehril Shehzad and Zeerak Ali constantly moved around in their fixed corners using the age-old symbol of sand to highlight the tussle between body and soul, hence touching on open-to-interpretation subjects such as platonic love.

Irfan Hasan’s attempt at painting his own image on a table where a reading lamp illuminates his ongoing artwork was impressive. It was the ambience of solitude with books scattered on the floor and a projector that showed his effort to depict an individual as more than an image.

Salman Hasan and S. M. Raza named their live act ‘Jasd-i-khaaki’. As deduced from the title, it was related to soil. They drew lines, painted images and at the same time played with the soil, not like it was material for art, but more like the soil was part of them.

Munawar Ali Syed extended the personal metaphor and brought into focus society’s dilemmas. His performance was titled ‘Gasping’ and pointed to the fact that the fiend of intolerance was suffocating people to death.

Nimra Bucha in a performance titled Swimming Pool. Photo by White Star
Nimra Bucha in a performance titled Swimming Pool. —Photo by White Star

Actress Nimra Bucha provided a realistic flavour to the whole visually loud scenario through a piece written by Madiha Aijaz. It was called ‘Swimming pool’. According to the details given by the organisers, it was about an ageing swimming instructor who loses her passion for swimming. However, the element of slipping into a burqa intermittently indicated not just a physical shift but a psychological change in the protagonist as well.

Raania Azam Khan and Saba Iqbal’s ‘Mystery nivala’ transported the viewer back in time. It had an eye-catching appeal.

Sikandar Mufti’s performance with the drum set, most of which were to do with cymbals, was good despite the constant, unplanned playing. It even encouraged young female visitors to try the drums, which was cool. That is why it made sense when Australia’s Merran Esson, currently in Pakistan, said it reminded him of a ‘jam session’ in art.

Riwhyti was a collateral event of the fourth ASNA clay triennial. The other participating artists were Frieha Altaf, Muhammad Ali, Abdul Jabbar Gul, Sarah Baloch, Yousuf Bashir, Angeline Malik, Ayesha Toor, Ayessha Qureshi, Izdeyar Setna, Syed Ammad Tahir, Danyal Sadiq, Haamid Rahim, Fayaz Agariah, Babar Sheikh, Ahsan Jamal, Madiha Sikander, Danish Raza and Muzzumil Ruheel.