Sabza-o-Gul and Karachi’s yesteryear | Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Pakistan Press Foundation

Sabza-o-Gul and Karachi’s yesteryear

Pakistan Press Foundation

KARACHI: It is no mean attempt to choose Ghalib’s couplet and base an entire exhibition on it. Sabza-o-Gul, a show presenting works of seven known artists of the country curated by Amra Ali, which opened at the Chawkandi Art Gallery on Tuesday evening, has the following Ghalib two lines as its theme:

Sabza-o-gul kahan se aaey hain
Abr kia cheez hai, hava kia hai
(From where have the flowers and greenery come? What’s the essence of air, of clouds?)

This makes things obvious. It is an existentialist inquiry; a question about the meaningfulness or meaninglessness of existence. Those who have organised the show, which will continue till Oct 8, claim the exhibition is based on the concept of the garden that artists create through their fertile imagination. So, in the larger context, the garden can be taken as a symbol of life with all its greenness and barrenness — with warts and all.

Naz Ikramullah’s ‘A Dream is Born’ sets the tone of the exhibition with the very word ‘dream’. The romantic angle in the mixed media piece does not hint at a dream-come-true situation. In fact, it talks about the point where heightened imagination shuns the fear of failure.

Meher Afroz’s set of etchings pivots around the phrase khula dareecha (unlocked casement). The dareecha is an interesting object for exploring the possibilities of the life that’s out there, somewhere, but is difficult to anticipate. Afroz imparts an aura of mystique to the dareechas, blacking out some of them and turning others into a maze of sorts. The varied shapes of these casements are also important. They are not uniform which implies that the artist, like her colleagues, is examining the dream-like and the concrete side by side.

In terms of the theme of the show, the literality of the verdant space in Zarina Hashmi’s ‘Rani’s Garden’ is what sets it apart from the rest of the exhibits. The literality has a personal back story and leads to a complexity that is an aesthetic accomplishment.

Madiha Sikander super impresses with her creativity. She packs a punch in a way that makes the viewer focus on the subject and care less about technique. Her ‘All That Can’t Be Left Behind’ is a striking exhibit, but ‘Gulshan Wala Ghar’ speaks volumes for what Sikander can achieve in the realm of art (gouache on wasli). The blueprint of a house is actually a possible route to navigate the past — distant or recent. It is a readily identifiable artwork.

Ghalib Baqar’s Nakhl-i-Gumaan and Naqsh-i-Junoon dissolve the idea of reverie for lush landscapes into a longing in a seamless manner, while Irfan Hasan pays a worthy tribute to a French artist putting a contemporary spin on a mythological/classical idea.

Farooq Mustafa returns to the reality of the dream with ‘Yume No Machi’ and expands the scope of the show.

Once Upon a Time in Karachi

An exhibition of the latest body of work by Taqi Shaheen titled ‘Once Upon a Time in Karachi’ opened at the Koel Gallery on Tuesday.

It investigates the bustling megapolis, its days of yore, and subtly hints at the Kafkan metamorphosis it has undergone in recent years. Shaheen does that with the help of satellite images and data collected from different sources.

In that regard, one of the most poignant exhibits is ‘Prince’s Memoirs’, which comes across as a historic newspaper document. The headline reads, ‘The last point of the Prince’s Indian tour: Karachi’ and the intro says that on March 19, 1906 the Prince of Wales sailed from the city. But that’s not it. The smattering of old buildings in pristine condition, the Sind Club for example, in the artwork and the patchwork of other news items creates an ambience that suggests the artist is celebrating as well as lamenting the past.

Then in another exhibit, ‘Seasons of the Sea’, Shaheen pushes the documentation behind and brings forth his arty side without inhibition. On surface, the viewer sees Karachi’s monthly mean sea level. A little bit of concentration will reveal

that water is not the only liquid that shapes the city’s seascape.

The show will run till Oct 4.