Encounters of the Third Kind under way
KARACHI: We often talk about art as a political statement. This pushes into the background a very important aspect of art: of a cultural commentator. The rapid changes that have taken place on the political front in the last two decades have influenced the artist community in an unusually strong manner. The cultural aspect is no less strongly manifested in their creative pursuits, albeit injudiciously covered by the media.
An exhibition of Masuma Halai Khwaja’s impressive artworks of textile collages titled Encounters of the Third Kind opened at the Canvas Art Gallery on Tuesday. The show focuses on the cultural aspect of life on the levels of both content and craft. And we know very well that no cultural feat can be achieved without a fair degree of skillfulness.
Masuma, as per her statement, has worked with textiles sourced from local flea markets. They have their distinct past that doesn’t readily go away even after reaching those markets. The artist is aware of it. She doesn’t want to let go of that past but at the same time needs to use it to create something new; after all, all artists are creators. So, by virtue of her painstaking technique she tries to make sense of different versions of history (primarily in the cultural domain), and in the process interprets them as a corollary of her hard work and creativity.
‘Distant Drums’ is an apt indicator to the artist’s drift. One way (and there are quite a few) to appreciate the artwork is to understand the caption, which is the English translation, not equivalent, of the Urdu phrase duur ke dhol. The perception-reality dichotomy in society is not very pronounced here; but interestingly, there’s subtlety in the tangibility of the exhibit.
Things get clearer with an eye-catching piece ‘Similar Histories, Different Futures’. The artist, without inhibition or an ounce of worry, gives away what she feels. The difference that she is highlighting relates to a time to come (read: future), and its ramifications or results are of a socio-cultural nature — a substitute for history.
As far as the titular ‘Encounters of the Third Kind’ is concerned, it is a nod to a famous celluloid project in the sense that ‘alienation’ doesn’t remain a foreign idea; it’s an in-built concept.
The exhibition will run until May 18.