Mode of communication: Art as a means of social commentary
KARACHI: Very seldom does one come across artists who are embedded in their work completely. However, visual artist Saba Khan is one of them.
After completing her bachelors in fine arts from National College of Arts, Lahore, she travelled to Boston University on a Fulbright scholarship to further her studies but her energy to do something concrete never wavered.
In her talk, titled ‘Photographs are Drawings’, at the Indus Valley School Gallery on Wednesday, Khan spoke about her works, saying that her paintings of photographs became a project all on their own. “I had a complete set of hard drives of photographs that I really didn’t know what to do with and drawing became a good opportunity to profess my love for the arts,” she explained. “Hence, these photographs are my drawings that have somehow culminated into a project. Initially, these drawings were personal narratives, later they turned into social satire.”
Khan’s work includes capturing a man’s image in a painting while he looks about, hoping to find someone to shine his shoes, a begum sahiba lounging comfortably on a padded sofa and an image of Aaminah Haque from a glossy cover magazine, all done using various techniques such as chamak-pati.
On her move to Boston, which she had hoped will provide a better place for living, Khan said she was provided an eye-opener into the ‘growing racism’ and ‘narrow-mindedness’ of the West. So, she started depicting her own story in her drawings, considering herself ‘a half-cooked chicken’.
In the US, she started to miss Pakistan, despite being bombarded by negative images on the TV about the country going up in flames.
“When I felt cornered, I drew images to embarrass my classmates like they embarrassed me,” she said. But she also drew images of her teacher’s pet dogs, of a wealthy woman living in Boston and the apple-picking season.
Back in Lahore for a short visit, she said nostalgia swept through her, causing her to draw the image of an old woman in Lahore and the wedding season. In her drawings, she has experimented with many mediums, including beads and wire. Currently, according to her, her drawings are taking on the architectural hues of Lahore and Dubai.
“I really wanted to know her process of constantly painting, which comes from the pictures she takes and considers to be drawings,” said artist and curator Seher Naveed. “From old havelis to Bahria Town, she has said something on society, culture and pop culture along with mundane life, therefore, covering everything.”