Art Reserves opens at Canvas
KARACHI: In art, overstating facts or strong feelings can be terribly off-putting. There’s a fine line between artistically expressing what stirs or inspires an artist and going overboard to propagate an idea. Abdullah M.I. Syed’s exhibition of his latest work titled ‘Art Reserves’, curated by critic Nafisa Rizvi, began at the Canvas Gallery on Tuesday. The show should be praised for having the aesthetic elements required for putting across a socio-politically charged motif. However, there are factors in the display which border on predictability, and there’s nothing wrong with that. After all, artists do not rest up until they explore a concept to the hilt.
For this reviewer, the seven exhibits representing the ‘Decoration’ series are the highlight of the exhibition. Thankfully they are placed as the initial bunch and the viewer gets so absorbed in the idea behind the series that what follows next plays second fiddle to it. (For sure, the artist wouldn’t have thought it that way.) The first exhibit ‘Decoration 5 — Sitara-i-Wafa Sitara-i-Dagha’ (charcoal chalk pastel, colour pencil & typed on Canson paper, metal & folded US$ & Pakistani Rs banknotes) is a remarkable take on the political and economic moves which often hurt the less affluent people, perhaps unwittingly. The dollar bills and rupees clearly point to the material aspect of international relations which sometimes hint at the spiritual hollowness of societies. The word ‘dagha’ (betrayal) is the key here. It says it all.
The artist’s concern for the underprivileged is evident from ‘Decoration 3 — Sitara-i-Ameeri Sitara-i-Ghareebi’. And the star (sitara) has many points (and not just a six-point star) with Rs100 notes in ‘Decoration 7 — Sitara-i-Umeed Sitara-i-Yaqeen’. The dangling between umeed (hope) and yaqeen (belief) is nicely depicted.
The ‘Flying Rug — Orientalism for Sale’ series (hand-cut 2$ bills with Perspex vitrine) is where Abdullah M.I. Syed proves he is aware of the aesthetic aspect of art. While the exhibits have, especially ‘Flying Rug — Orientalism for Sale 1’, a clear symbolic touch to them, they are aesthetically good to look at as well. The viewer can easily notice the fineries associated with the fabled flying rug.
‘Stockpile’ (shredded $notes, 24Kc gold plated metal type) is perhaps the most ‘different’ work of art than the rest of the exhibits, but basically conveys the same message.
‘Bullish’ and ‘Bearish’ (silkscreen & gold pencil on uncut 1$ banknote sheet) are again an indicator of how the market controls the psyche of many a modern man, and artist.
The exhibition will continue till March 1.