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Memory and faith

Published Apr 10, 2013 12:16pm


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Sheherbano Hussain's piece artist only.

KARACHI: Artists are essentially a sceptic lot. This does not mean that they consciously shun issues pertaining to faith. It is against their grain not to examine those aspects of life that concern an individual’s growth, or lack of it, in society.

An exhibition of recent works by Sheherbano Hussain and Ayesha Shariff opened at the Chawkandi Art Gallery on Tuesday.

Both artists, using a variety of media, basically try and explore some of those factors that define the relation between individuals and groups, and groups and cultures. While Ms Hussain’s artwork tends to analyse the psychological side to human existence with reference to memory, Ms Shariff’s exhibits touch on the spiritual facet of life.

Ms Hussain’s photo montages titled ‘An Artist of the Floating World’ at first come

across as pieces of surrealism aimed at discovering one’s self. But then as the images become clearer to visualise, their understanding becomes all the more difficult, for the simple reason that they do not depict a single person’s situation: it’s a collective search, a struggle between memory and forgetting. Her oil-on-canvas tribute to, perhaps inspired by, Belgian artist James Ensor’s celebrated painting The Scandalized Masks is a striking work of art. It’s called ‘Artists Only (Recalling James Ensor)’. It is, for sure, the standout exhibit.

Ms Shariff believes in tasawwuf (spirituality) and is not particularly fond of

Songs of the Rainforest by Ayesha Shariff.

organised religion.

According to her, she has turned calla lilies into a symbol of heart and it happened after she received the flowers (lilies) accompanied by a Rumi poem. The one-petal form had her spellbound. This goes to show a monistic view of life, that is, the single petal denotes oneness of/in things.

The artist does not, however, see that in isolation, as she draws rich inspiration from nature and everyday life, hence the effusive use of

the colour green in ‘Songs of the Rainforest’ (acrylic on canvas) and the light-hearted play on house windows in ‘Somewhere a Window is Always Open’ (egg tempera on paper). The viewer can interpret it literally or can construe them as windows to the soul.

The exhibition will remain open till April 16.


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Comments (3) Closed

Asad Apr 10, 2013 08:53am
Excellent work! I was fortunate to see the show yesterday and the work is truly outstanding. Look forward to seeing more from Ayesha in the future.
jamil Apr 10, 2013 11:50am
Excellent work!
Amit Apr 10, 2013 03:21pm
Ms. Hussain's work shines with powerful philosophic insight into selfhood and being at a level that certain surrealist masters would be proud of. She breaks all the cliches of what is expected from Pakistani artists and depicts an inner world of a free thinker that refuses to walk in lock step with mainstream society. As methaphor, especially for a woman but true for any individual, that struggles between a highly conformist society and a paramount deliberate selfhood this is layer upon layer of wonder and beauty.