‘As and When It Happens’ seems an apt title for a recent show at Karachi’s Art Chowk Gallery. Artworks by Abdullah Qamar, S.M. Raza and Farrukh Adnan gel together in an interconnection due to their use of black and white and in an overall synthesis of process. The progression of work by each artist suggests a strong connection to the act of drawing; of an initial impulse that has been sustained to the end. The final object is in fact a reference to the initial, the primary and the foundation.
Perhaps the significance of this body of work is that there is a meeting point for each artist with the other. Protruding metal forms converse with the two dimensional drawn and stained organic marks in black ink on canvas in Qamar’s work ‘Adam and Eve’ (2013). Apart from the equations within this large work covering an entire wall of the gallery, it acts as a converging point to the circular metal formations by Adnan on an adjacent wall. Adnan’s two relatively small works, metal on board, reiterate the relationship of equations (as also seen in Abdullah’s work), with thin linear rods placed in the formation of a circle against a square board. Interestingly, since both artists’ use of metal has a strong affinity to drawing, the metal recedes to produce an imagined drawing, and an underlying structure for ideas that speak of what Adnan refers to as an ‘invisible reality’.
The perforations in Qamar’s sculpted forms capture the flow of melted larva, evoking equally strong connections to water and land pollution; to that which is bound to overflow, and perhaps, in some way to occupation, to turf and to resistance. The necessity of dialectics that the Artist discusses briefly in his statement opens a space of reconciliation, of embracing dichotomies of time, place and history.
The physicality of the material such as the metal work(s) is placed against an unframed canvas with line and form, creating separation of noncohesive elements. In this process, we confront the non-conformist in Qamar, whose works insist that art be approached as a non commodity; a contradiction where idealism resides.
Adnan’s drawings in metal simultaneously refer to a centre and periphery; to the endlessness of space not bound by a physical time. A similar sensibility marks his pen and ink ‘doodles’ and marks on canvas. The inherent contradiction here is the reference to the intangible, which accommodates the spiritual, yet each mark also frames the moment of making the line as the most significant.
Raza’s work is more bound by the specifics of the social. The stencilled lettering that reads ‘Peace’, ‘Moral Standards’ and ‘Jamhooriyat’ reflect the double standards of a system, where advertising may be used for masking other realities. Peace is used as a word and as an image, with a few broken pieces; jamhooriyat (democracy) forms other words such as rait (sand), also to be read as the Urdu word reet .
The movement of reading from left to right and right to left signifies the present time, the futility of deciphering cultural specificities and dichotomies. For this, the personal has to intervene in the barrage of ideologies historically located in the West, to shed the baggage and unmask the capitalist agendas that continue to frame and dictate the art discourse.