Blending eras: Visualising politics through art
KARACHI: Either through words or actions, people have employed different ways to comment on the socio-political situation of the country. SM Mansoor, a visual artist, used his skill on the canvas and expressed his response to the issues surrounding the common man.
An exhibition of his miniatures was organised at the VM Art Gallery, echoing the themes of violence, war and terror in the country.
The blend of traditional and contemporary symbols stood out in most of his miniatures, making it the artist’s signature style. Mansoor comments on the anarchical state of society but also attempts to catch the cultural history of the Subcontinent – dating back to the Mughals.
He spoke about the influences and driving force behind his work. “We are living in the worst era in the history of mankind and our social values are deteriorating.”
One striking piece was ‘The VIP movement’. It depicted a parade of elephants with spears and war flags, heading on road wearing helmets. Their feet replaced by car wheels and the suspended traffic signals was an exemplary form of intermix of modern imagery with the traditional. But more than that, it commented on the manner in which the powerful in our society move around the city, like a herd carrying weapons and halting all other passersby.
“Each of these miniatures is actually making a political statement,” said Riffat Alvi, the curator of the gallery. “Mansoor comments on the way the society is surviving these days. The VIP movement is a bold remark on how we come to a standstill whenever a politician passes by.”
Playing with dark imagery, the sculptor had created intriguing miniatures. A ticking bomb on a Mughal emperor or a suspended elephant awaiting its death, each gave an impression of disarray. The conceptual art that defines these miniatures made use of various approaches like paper collage, mixed media, selection of figures and unusual composition, and bold colours on paper.
Mansoor voiced his concern over the drone attacks and targeted killings through his artful piece titled “In search of target”. The composition was simplistic showing an empty chair with knives hovering over it in blood red background; nonetheless the effect it generated was that of intense gloom and lawlessness.
But this painting meant much more to Mansoor. To him it was a reply to the former president. “Two years back, Asif Zardari said in a statement that we have spent peaceful years in Pakistan. My painting showed a helmet in a corner, that symbolises the safe house in which he lived in, oblivious to his surroundings.”
What stood out in his paintings were circlular patterns in varying colours, on the outline of all his works. The abundant use of these patterns aroused curiosity from art-lovers. Mansoor explained it as,”I refuse to call these mere circles. It’s my trademark which represents that I am the custodian of the people who see my art, and I have the responsibility of reaching out to them with a message.”