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The other side of the story

January 24, 2013

A gouache on wasli piece.

KARACHI: There is a marked difference between questions raised by artists and those put by other important figures such as politicians and social scientists regarding society’s shortcomings. The latter seek tangible, physical change within geographical confines whereas the former look to revolutionise society on a psychosomatic level, that is, they investigate the relation between the mind and the body to resolve or understand individual and collective conflicts.

An exhibition of artist Donia Kaiser’s works titled ‘The Other Side’ opened at the Chawkandi Art Gallery on Tuesday.

The artist has touched on large societal issues in miniature style, hence following the line espoused a long time back by Polonius, ‘brevity is the soul of wit’. The word wit does not necessarily imply a smile-eliciting comment. It also means intelligence. And this is what comes out of Kaiser’s works quite clearly: she has intelligently brought into focus grave subjects like a person’s position in a society, mainly urban society, against a social backdrop which is symbolically dark.

A gouache on wasli piece.

One cogent example of it is her insightful piece in which a donkey-cart laden with bricks is being pushed by the rider. The struggle can be easily sensed. But it’s not the toil that makes the artwork striking; rather it’s the dark black background topped by a layer of dark redness that makes the scene stark and serious. The tone of the whole picture looks graver than the physical strife that pans out before the viewer’s eyes.

This brings us to the main components of the artworks: they are unadulterated colours, men and women, and animals. Anyone who knows a little bit about symbolism will realise that these three have a close relationship and can be mutually exclusive or reinforcing, depending on the kind of society they coexist in. This is exactly the point where Kaiser must be commended because the artist has tried to define (read: redefine) their relationship.

The exhibition will continue until Jan 30.