Street (smart) art
By: Peerzada Salman
KARACHI: Creating art featuring street children is no mean feat. It requires great care, because the artist needs to understand the idiosyncrasies associated with street life as well as the fine line crossing which that kind of art can become vain and meaningless. Life on the street is diametrically opposed to life in the living rooms. An exhibition of Sayeda M. Habib’s latest works titled ‘Challo’ is these days under way at the Canvas Gallery. The show succeeds to a great extent in achieving the goal of keeping true to street basics.
The 36 exhibits encapsulate the life that one sees on the street, and one of the most expressive specimens is ‘Jeay II’ (mixed media on clay tile). With a flair for sloganeering (imagine socialist chants on Pakistan’s roads) alongside a host of other colourful writings signify the socio-cultural hodgepodge that our society has turned out to be. This should not be mistaken that the artist has done this at the expense of the innate innocence with which such graffiti is made. That’s there too.
An interesting artwork is ‘Zameen, Asmaan aur Mein’ (mixed media on clay tile). The play of the slogan ‘Huq Baat’ (truth) is juxtaposed with dangerous ailments like cancer and thalassaemia. It is a sharp commentary on how politics borders on hypocrisy and how it often eclipses more important issues.
Ms Habib then changes the subject but not the essence of her endeavour. The eight portraits of street children (oil on aluminium tava) are a visual treat. They capture the kind of individuals these children are, whom anyone can see roaming around the streets giving two hoots about the rest of the world, but when they’re asked to strike a pose or do something publicly, their childish reluctance tinged with unknown eagerness has the better of them. In that context, ‘Portrait III’ might endorse the observation. It’s the picture of a young man who knows he’s being looked at, and yet finds it difficult to look that way. Instead he stares blankly outside of the frame.
Even then, his consciousness of being watched is noticeable.