Shazly Khan and her ‘Epic Journey’
KARACHI: A fascinating combination of expressionism and impressionism, Shazly Khan’s stylistic art depicts the feminine form in its multifarious roles.
Feminism, friendship and fertility are the three most obvious aspects of her art which, over the years, has evolved into a potent but subtle form steeped in a powerful stylistic imagery. Her ‘Epic Journey’ covers a woman’s development from infant to senile. One who is unable to comprehend the strong feminine symbolism in her paintings may say they were caricatures, but her art definitely has a unique style of its own, giving her a singular place among modern artists.
Focus with an open mind and you can also see her in an embryonic form. Empathise with her expressions and you can feel ancient symbolism breathe in her pictures. Procreation and creation are so evident. Elongated human forms stretch arms to a Divine Being in prayer, or around human forms, to show various feelings such as companionship, love, care and protection.
Embryos suspended inside the eggs; fish and sperm swim in primordial fluid. Unborn and newborn babies, women with rounded bellies; the seven stages of life of a woman — there is a lot more to see and conceive and appreciate in Khan’s work.
As a child, she has fond memories of Algeria where she grew up and then travelled to France, Italy, Egypt and Spain. “All these happy times are reflected in fragmented elements: ethnic design and symbols,” she said. “I have been exposed to the West and the East, which is highly reflective in my work. My paintings express my deep love of life and family and my wish to protect them and create an inner sense of peace and happiness.”
Khan goes on to explain how her work is highly symbolic, laden with colour and emotions, with a hint of human empowerment. “My art is an extension of my soul. It’s the best way I express my thoughts and feelings and share my world with others.”
Khan’s works are mainly focused on human forms and their relationships, by manipulating everyday occurrences, subconscious desires and sensitive issues related to life and focusing on their particular design elements. “My figurative elements are predominant in my compositions,” she said. “I enjoy the freedom of spreading limbs vertically and horizontally across the canvas, embracing the entire surface with the importance of life.”
Her images are also an extension and free expression of her personal artistic style as they are formed and manipulated into ways she finds aesthetically pleasing. Through doing this, the audience may be able to identify with particular images and interpret them in whichever way they like. “Symbols are important to me, such as the dove of peace and hands posed for prayer. Texture and design are important as a symbol of the activity of urban living.”
Shazly uses fast-drying acrylics because of intense colour palette and for practical reasons, applied with brush, palette knife and fingers too. “I love the feel of paint.”
Born in Jeddah, Shazly probably possesses the special quality that the name of that great port city bears. It is named after the grandmother of all humans we remember as Eve. Jeddah, meaning grandmother, has the burial place of Eve and at one time in the past, childless women used to visit there to pray for a child. She may not know it but Piscean-born Shazly’s interest in fertility and fishes may have originated from the port city by the Red Sea where she was born and Mother Eve had lived and was buried.
Shazly Khan now lives in Karachi along with her commercial artist husband, Waseem, and their kids.