Shell [skin] opens at Koel
KARACHI: The title of an exhibition of Samina Mansuri’s artworks, which opened at the Koel Art Gallery on Tuesday, is Shell[Skin]. It is a give-away in the contextual sense, that is, with respect to the subject-matter, but not when it comes to form.
This is the reason that the introduction on the invite to the show describing her work as ‘iconoclastic’ seems a bit out of place. Iconoclastic implies looking critically at long-held beliefs or institutions. Mansuri is not doing that. If she is looking critically at anything, it’s the issues related to form. As far as content goes, the shell/skin duality, if not dichotomy, is enough to make the viewer understand that it is the vigorous scratching of the surface that the artist is aiming for, not in the way Milan Kundera talks about Francis Bacon’s attempt at destroying the mask with knife stabs though.
Therefore, technique assumes importance here. The use of steel scrap and synthetic polymer with a sense of structural design makes it clear that the artist is playing with the idea of manipulating form to get to the message. The message is up to the viewer to infer. The hint is in the title of the display. But the only way to reach there is to try to come to terms with the different artworks which give off many vibes — of design, of the flexibility or the lack of it of the human body, the shapes that are eclipsed by swirls of colours etc.
There are three kinds of media used by the artist. In the ‘Steel Scrap’ series there is steel scrap and wood. In the ‘Shell’ series she employs synthetic polymer paint on wood. And in pieces ‘Shell 8’ and ‘Shell 9’ the artist uses inkjet print on paper. The idea is to look beyond the form. For example, in the first case, the viewer inadvertently feels the urge to sift through the pointy, steely and somewhat (visually) sandy material to see what lies underneath. Which is what the artist, perhaps, wants.
Next up is the remarkable shell series made with synthetic polymer paint. In the piece number 12 what’s interesting is the compressed posture of the object. Obviously, posture is living being’s attribute. So looking longer at the artwork gradually makes the viewer understand that the object is actually the subject of the exhibition. This becomes less ambiguous in the artwork ‘Shell 3’.