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Artmart: Fresh perspectives

November 14, 2010


The recent Art Chowk exhibition, 'Eject before disconnecting', by Sausan Saulat is a case of the right artist in the right place. From just an emerging online gallery in 2008, this contemporary art company has rapidly expanded into a formal high end space called Art Chowk—the gallery. A noticeable feature of the gallery's particular curatorial perspective is their scrutiny and selection of young talent. Saulat is among the several sound choices they have made so far. Hopefully such relationships will be long term.

Today, when the quality and quantity of art is rising, galleries should consider playing a more meaningful role in not just showcasing and marketing the art, but also nurturing the artist. This goes particularly for the more talented young ones some of whom never quite realise their potential because timely and consistent encouragement (especially during the lean periods) is not forthcoming.

Fluent brushwork, deft drawing skills and an ability to project a temperament were just some attributes immediately noticeable in Saulats's work as early as 2006 when she put up her thesis display at Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture, Karachi. Consistently painting and exhibiting in group shows she has only just managed to collect enough fresh pieces to bring forth this solo at Art Chowk before proceeding to join an MFA program at Savannah College of Art and Design in the US as a recipient of a Fulbright Scholarship.

Saulat's current work, like her previous series, is mainly self-referential or focused on her immediate milieu of friends and family members. She herself remarks that, 'Although the works mostly talk of the individual, they are based largely on universal themes of identity, artistic tussles, relationships and the banalities of urban living.'

Echoing the exuberance and liveliness as well as the qualms and complexities of being young she paints instinctively, with freedom and confidence. Her offbeat pictorial content is a visual translation of felt thoughts, moods, a mindset or trends and syndromes peculiar to a yuppie lifestyle and it is liberally peppered with wit and tongue in cheek humour.

Consider the dig at brand and bling culture in the 'Love me do', digital print and mixed-media artwork. On a canvas embossed with the colourful Louis Vuitton logo pattern she plants a nouveau riche socialite, in designer jeans, baubles, dark shades and a tacky Marilyn Monroe totebag, brazenly flaunting an empty LV patterned canvas in a cheap ornate frame.

Similarly, the object d'art titled, 'Prozac nation—A woman of substance (abuse)', consisting of a platinum ring set with a Prozac pill critiques the vagaries of affluence. On the same sassy note 'Malice in wonderland (It's not the fall that kills you....)' is a pot shot at greed and envy.

If narration comes easily to Saulat she is not short on technical applications either. Artistic flair and conceptual abilities meld well in paintings like, 'Run gingerbread man (my portrait ran away)', 'Growing pains, pains growing (when two is a crowd)', where drawing and painting execution vie with the subject for attention.

Saulat is among the few young artists who have opted for realistically rendered figurative forms as her protagonists in her paintings, but hers' is contemporary realism where she mixes the quirky pop mannerism, collage, pen and digital art with the traditional oil and acrylic on canvas or board. Contemporary realism is a term used in its narrow sense to denote an American style of painting which emerged in the late 1960s characterised essentially by figurative works executed in a raw objective style. In its wider sense, it refers to all post 1970 artists and sculptors who focus on representational art where the intention is to portray the 'real' rather than the ideal.