KARACHI: One of the most frequently quoted lines from the Franco-Czech writer Milan Kundera’s novel The Book of Laughter and Forgetting is: “The struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting.” An exhibition of artist and poet Moeen Faruqi’s latest artworks that is under way at the Koel Gallery is intriguingly titled New Memories. ‘New’ and ‘memory’ sounds a bit oxymoronic. Well, they are not, because memory can also be fresh. In the case of this exhibition, what needs to be kept in mind is that the artist has dedicated the show to Mahvash, his wife who passed away in June last year. So, this is one aspect of memory, poignant at that; and it is indeed a struggle against the power of the days gone by over which we have no control.
But there’s more to the display than that. The personal and the societal merge effortlessly in Faruqi’s paintings. The central theme here is of alienation — from the past, from the system that offers less and demands more, and from one’s personal perspective of progress. Therefore his work features figures of men and women, the ever-present symbol of fish and water, with captions that highlight Karachi’s neighbourhoods such as Clifton and Jamshed Road.
It is important to understand that they are all interconnected. Locality is integral to remembrance, both in good and sad ways. The anguish (or is it pensiveness?) that the viewer sees on the faces of Faruqi’s protagonists, for example in an exhibit called ‘Trilogy of Angst’ (acrylic on canvas) can be put down to the distance from their locale, or their roots. The titular piece ‘New Memories’ clarifies the concept pretty eloquently. Man and woman flank the frame which has noticeable signs of movement from one place to another. The movement, by the way, can be physical as well as spiritual.