When art is a muse for art
By Mariam Qureshi
I visited the third annual thesis display of the National College of Arts, (NCA) Rawalpindi campus the other day. I was pleasantly surprised. Considering what an institution the Lahore branch is, the Pindi campus is fast catching up. It was obvious that with their limited means the final year students of fine arts department had ‘appropriated’ their visual and learning experiences into very mature and creative pieces of art. They are playing a role in negating trite ideas and developing what is new and novel in Pakistani art. The purpose of my article is not to analyse their work but to draw analogies between them and some of our current eminent artists. In the history of art the word ‘to appropriate’ means ‘The use of borrowed elements to create new work’. This is not to say that this is a euphemism for copying, rather this is deeper exploration of relevant concepts that call for further elucidation. I think what really makes their work interesting is the fact that they have ‘appropriated’ modern ideas very cleverly in their art pieces.
Although Mamoona Riaz had done her majors in miniature painting, but her artwork ‘Invasion of Spaces’ was an amalgam of miniature, sculpture and cartography. Her display was a narrative on urbanization. Although the title connotes a negative ethos, but on seeing her work one realizes it is very skilful and is has a decorative element. She has inserted boxes with windows through which a viewer can look into a panoramic drama of maps and construction vehicles. The twist in her work was that she had over lapped transparent sheets – each with a different picture. Hence the viewer sees an image in over lapping layers. Her work reminded me of the eminent miniaturist Noor Ali Chagani from NCA Lahore. He used miniature terra cotta brick structures to depict urbanisation. Hence the use of sculpture in miniature is an interesting similarity. Another similarity is how she has also used window boxes like Chagani does to display his labyrinthine models in bricks. His work is also displayed in the Victoria Albert Museum London.
The work of Sundas Matloob Rana from the department of painting was a interplay of Urdu text graffiti and painted images depicting a western ‘bubble gum’ doll like image of herself. Ironically the character in paintings was called ‘Dolly’ and the character constantly referred to in graffiti was called ‘Aslam’ hence the title of her work ‘Aslam Ki Kahani Dolly Ki Zubani’. Her concept was consumerism and the ideal self-image influenced by the west that people try to emulate. Looking at her work the Lahore based sculptor Huma Mulji came to my mind. Her series titled ‘Sirf Tum’ are a sculptural cum installation work in which she juxtaposes two naked dolls and focuses on their intimacy in public places in our local surrounding. She is also addressing issues of consumerism and plasticity, as these naked Barbie dolls were bought from Lunda Bazaar where rejected items are sent to Pakistan from the west.
Muhammad Shahid comes from Azad Kashmir. His sculpture titled ‘Shanakht’ (Identity) dealt with his origin and identity. He carved his identity card on different colored marbles pieces. I feel that students coming from remote areas to study in cosmopolitan urban centers feel a strong urge to promote their obscure hometowns. An interesting analogy can be drawn with the artist Ahmed Ali Manganhar who originated from Hyderabad before coming to Lahore. He gave expression to his ‘Shanakth’ by making images of historic sites of Sindh on slate boards. The use of slate boards connotes his school days in Hyderabad where he was first taught to write on a slate.
Nazir Ahmed’s sculptures seemed like a personal humorous narrative on the body – like a little boy’s sexual awakening. They were indeed very sexual in nature. It represented a discomfiting relationship between the artist and his subject. Very much like the famous British artist Lucian Freud. Nazir had sculpted parts of the body with hair and yet none of the pieces directly represented male genitals, but the viewer can sense a libidinous association. The female breasts were made of sacks filled with sand. I felt Nazir’s experimentation with skin tones and a detached voyeurism of his subject seemed to be elements reminiscent of Lucian Freud’s work.
The work ‘Maverick’ by Summaiyah Arshad was cut out paper sculptures, which could be viewed through boxes with windows. The images were inspired from fairy tale books that the artist associated with her childhood. Accompanying these images was an audio narrative of obscure sentences. These were innuendos of personal expressions. Her work reminded me of Tariq Gill’s work who is a professor of sculpture at the NCA. His subjects and concepts often dealt with the naïve and the child-like.
In conclusion by no means is the Pakistani art scene myopic – the artists are fast becoming a part of global creativity.
Source: Daily Times