Digest art on display at Art Chowk
By: Peerzada Salman
KARACHI: Those of us who did not have an English-only upbringing must be fully aware of the Urdu ‘digest’ culture that almost every household was part of. A few of these digests to date get published but the enthusiasm with which they would be received is no longer there. The stories that these digests published were invariably accompanied by illustrations, usually black and white, to aid the reader in the visual understanding of the tales and to break the textural monotony.
An exhibition of artworks by six artists titled ‘Urdu digest illustrated’ is under way at the Art Chowk Gallery. The participating artists at some point in their careers have worked for these publications making beautiful, often under-discussed, pictorials to go along with popular stories. It is a long overdue tribute to this kind of work, which is bound by timelines and yet has all the necessary ingredients in order to be classified as pure art.
Zakir Hasan Chishti’s artworks (airbrush, watercolour and colour pencils on paper) immediately transport the viewer to the era when beautiful girls, or heroines of the story, were depicted with flowing hair and dainty postures. The man sipping his cuppa with a forlorn woman on the upper half of the picture is a familiar sight, as is blood dripping out of an isolated eye.
Shaista Momin’s lovely pen and ink work blurs the line between commissioned art and art made as one feels like making. In one exhibit where the artist shows the back of a young woman either getting ready for, or finishing, a move is remarkable. Imran Zaib keeps up with the theme and imparts a filmy touch to it. His subjects come across as tinsel town figures in the real world.
Inam Raja shifts the tone of the display from being women-oriented to situation-specific (pen and ink on paper). An old man with unkempt hair and birds in the foreground gives away the whole idea (of the supposed story).
Shahid Hussain takes it a bit further and in one of his pieces the viewer finds a postage stamp in one corner of the image which is dominated by an aged male figure (pen and ink on paper). He also brings into focus the gestures that only illustrations capture honestly (a pair of glasses clutched in hand).
Zulfikar Azeem rounds it all off with a brilliant picture of a scene that seems to have been taken out of a detective story (faces, mask, car, gift box).
The exhibition, curated by Shahana Rajani, will continue until Jan 12.