`Mein` : exploration of the self -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

`Mein` : exploration of the self

Peerzada Salman

KARACHI: Not very often does one get to see the works of no fewer than 85 known and relatively less known artists under one roof — works which represent the interpretation of their `selves` at that.

To celebrate the third anniversary of Koel Gallery, an exhibition titled `Mein — the artist and the self` curated by Noorjehan Bilgrami and Amean J opened at the gallery on Thursday.

A wide variety of paintings, sculptures and installations made by 85 artists (ranging from Salima Hashmi to A.R. Nagori and from Asim Butt to Ussman Ghauri) are on display.

Each piece, in one way or another, examines or explores the self. Rest assured there is very little hint of introspection; instead, it is a kind of inquiry and scrutiny which compels artists to speak up (read: express). It would, however, be ill-advised to expect a painter`s own face covered by a straw hat, a la that famous Dutch artist. This is different.

The range and quality of the pieces on view are diverse because of which it takes a fair bit of time to view them with attentiveness. But then a majority of the exhibits are so engaging that even the most concentration-deficient of persons would spend some time looking at them.

A case in point being Asim Butt`s forlorn, vacuously-staring-into-space `Self` (oil on canvas). The redness around the face, the sharp light on the left side of the head and a wide-eyed stare make for a sad picture — sad but true.

Ussman Ghauri`s `Verbal non-verbal` (acrylic on canvas) is also a heartrending piece, open to interpretation but an unquestionable work of a fecund imagination. Along with A.R. Nagori, Asim Butt and Ussman Ghauri are the artists who died in the span of a few years.

Ayesha Vellani with her `Portrait of a Pakistani woman` (digital archive print) smartly contrasts, not juxtaposes, the red flowers in the jholi of a woman against a black and white background, giving an idea of a society she`s part of. This is nicely balanced out by Lali Khalid`s poignant `Between pictures and words` (print on archival paper; laser print on fine art archival). The indistinct figure and the flowers are an evocative work of art, with a keen personal shade — hazy, unclear, yet decipherable.

`Sweet tooth` (digital print) by Mahreen Zuberi and Mohammad Ali Talpur`s portrait (ink on paper — painted over the face and then transformed on paper) takes the concept of the self to a level where deliberate misrepresentation makes sense. Nahid Raza has come up with something different. This time round the artist has treated the `square` as a symbol of power, with strong spiritual connotations.

Sadia Salim tackles the issue of time and space with her installation titled `Third piece`. She puts two time zones (let`s say of Karachi and New York) at a distance and ponders the spells in between.

Amean J, Naireen Zia and Silwat Mumtaz treat their portraits in a defocused manner, but all are different and have a point to make.

Silwat Mumtaz`s `Overlay` (water colours and graphite on wasli) touches on the fuzzy state of mind and Naireen Zia`s untitled work (print media) waters the eyes so as not to give away her self.

The exhibition will continue till Feb 20.

Source: Dawn