Naqsh bur Aab opens at Chawkandi -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

Naqsh bur Aab opens at Chawkandi

KARACHI: Meher Afroz is one of the most celebrated Pakistani artists. Those who believe that her work has improved over a period of time are utterly mistaken as the strengthening of ideas and fortification of thoughts in her work should not be confused with linear growth. It’s an evolution that has made the artist ponder over with more concentration and vigour the themes that she has always been focusing on. And the results are astoundingly viewable. Her latest exhibition titled ‘Naqsh bur Aab’ commenced at Chawkandi Art Gallery on Wednesday.

Anyone who wants to see how much she has advanced as an artist should visit the gallery, for it is special stuff. Her paintings make the viewer readily appreciate both form and content, because the two are interdependent. One can’t be seen clearly without the other.

Before analysing Ms Afroz’s fascination with Persian and Urdu diction, which is infectious, it is important to make sense of the title ‘Naqsh bur Aab’. It has been roughly translated by a critic as ‘images on water’. It is correct. But what this reviewer has been able to feel after being at the gallery is that the phrase ‘naqsh bur aab’ hints at reflection(s) in water. Images have an air of permanence about them. Reflections can also stay forever, only in the mind (or heart).

The exhibition begins on a green note. Why green? Well the exhibit (gold leaf & acrylic on wood) has ‘hamara gulistan’ (our garden) repeatedly written in Urdu with a definite shade of green, symbolising nature and fertility. What follows is a different colour scheme (silver leaf & acrylic on canvas) where the words ‘ilm’ (knowledge) and ‘ma’arfat’ (wisdom) are noticed. Here the silvery tone is dominant, hinting at intelligence as well as pensiveness. Spirituality slowly becomes pronounced. This is vindicated in another silver leaf & acrylic on canvas piece in which the word ‘hoo’ (a chant or a pointer) is stressed. Fascinating!
The next three acrylic-on-canvas exhibits take it a step ahead and examine the words fana (death), baqa (immortality) and rooh (spirit) followed by the very thoughtful medium of silver leaf, silver plated metal & acrylic on wood touching on ‘hum us ki tasbeeh kertay hain’ (we pray to him) and the erstwhile enigmatic relationship between ‘ilm’ (knowledge) and ‘ishq’ (love).

Clearly Ms Afroz is on a journey. This journey is not merely spiritual. She is in it with her pure physical force too, as a result of which the viewer readily notices the hard work that she’s put in her work. The detailing, the colours, the symbolism… all are exceptional.

And how can Ghalib not feature in the scheme of things? Daar-o-rasan ki azmaish (the trial leading to the gallows)! Indeed, isn’t it all a Kafkasque trial?

The exhibition will remain open till April 5.—Peerzada Salman