The silence of the self
KARACHI: Artists believe that the ‘self’ is just as perplexing, and at times deceiving, as anything or anybody else. It is the process of self-exploration that leads them to explore the universe and its countless mysteries. But sometimes they don’t go beyond the search of the self. According to poet Jaun Elia, “Juz gumaan aur tha hi kya mera” (What else was mine, except conjecture?). This was the feeling one had while witnessing an exhibition of artist Fraz Mateen’s new body of work titled ‘Piercing Silence’ at the Art Chowk Gallery. On the surface, the show screams out the word ‘identity’. That may be a component of the exhibition, but not the whole story. The artist basically is talking about himself, first and foremost. His quest for exploration his own being, though, may lead him to collective issues.
The untitled ballpoint-on-vasli paper artworks need a special mention. Let’s forget, for a moment, the face in them. It’s the force with which the artist has tried to deface the face. It’s not as ‘brutal’ a gesture as the one the viewer can see in Francis Bacon’s portrait-triptych. Still, the intent of trying to know what lies behind the mask, if it’s a mask, seems genuine and demands attention. There’s an urge in the artist to ‘know’, and that urge has caused him to agitate.
Now how does this personal quest turn into a collective search? The answer: when Fraz Mateen moves away from the face and reaches a series of books (carving on paper). These books have a connection with the aforementioned countenance. They are the different phases of life that a person goes through, that the artist might’ve gone through, which brings him face-to-face with the rest of the world. And that’s where life unfolds a bit more, without losing out on its mystique. You might ask, what about the piercing silence? Well, it’s just a metaphor for the difficult journey that every artist embarks on looking for that elusive identity.
The show will continue till Dec 10.