Artistic depiction: Prepare to feel blue at Syed Ali Wasif’s latest exhibition
KARACHI: Artist and psychiatrist Dr Syed Ali Wasif depicts the gloom and apathy that surrounds us in his latest exhibition of oil on canvas paintings at Citi Art Gallery, which opened last week.
The show is titled ‘Melancholia Blues’. According to the artist, the whole system around us is ‘unwell’. “It is suffering from an illness,” he said. “Some are in melancholy and some are, with their barbaric faces, slaughtering each other.”
He depicts such faces in his works. For example, the painting titled ‘Despair’ depicts a blue face on a dark background – the expression on the face fitting the title. The hands seem to be covering the ears on the face, as if disturbed by the melancholic surroundings.
“My [current series of] work started with the blast in Abbas Town,” said Wasif. “You can say that my work is pessimistic. Being a psychiatrist, we really struggle hard to keep ourselves intact. Everyone coming to us comes with a sad ordeal, a miserable story of their life. We are there to share and listen to it.”
Wasif seems to be inspired by the tales of his patients. He admitted that his patients inspire his works, yet is not willing to disclose their names as it affects his therapist-client confidentiality. For example, the painting titled ‘Ohh God!’ shows a face that seems to be drowning in a pool of sadness. It could be taken to depict a patient who feels helpless and sad.
The artist feels surrounded by gloom and despair. In his artist statement, he wrote, “There is so much blood and darkness that I can’t find a single dove, a symbol of peace, [a] ray of light nor there [is] any light at the end of [the] tunnel.
One particularly striking work is the one titled ‘Silence of the Screams!’. It depicts two faces, one of them silenced by a hand on the mouth, the other appearing to be shouting. The juxtaposition of the two faces makes one think about the sad realities of life and how at times we can scream at our agonies but there are times when despite the harshness of life, we must stay silent due to pressures.
“Sadequain was a mentor, Sadequain was a teacher, Sadequain was a friend,” said Wasif. He recalled how friendly Sadequain was during his first meeting with him in 1984. He admitted that his works are inspired by Sadequain.
“I am quite happy [with my life],” he clarified. “I see and paint things around me that make me feel unpleasant. That unpleasantness is transformed into the work. I cannot correct the society.” He said that social rectification is his responsibility as an artist. He felt that depicting the realities of society is his duty and that is what he has done in his gloomy works.
Artist Tabinda Chinoy felt that Wasif has focused on the society instead of the individual. “Some artists portray something more personal, others portray what’s happening around them, which is also in a way personal as it affects them,” she told The Express Tribune. The show runs till January 16.