(by VEERA RUSTOMJI)
Science and technology have clearly modified every field in art, opening new paths of exploration in terms of material and concept for the creator. Banishing literally all possible barriers for creativity, art from even third world countries such as Pakistan produce the most abstract representations through digital mediums or installations with impossibly difficult materials bent and carved into their destined formation. However, somehow artwork always boils down to the basic drawing; the grid of your canvas, the sketching of your subject, the rough positioning of your composition. In fact, any artist, student or teacher, will confess that it is the drawing which determines the future of your piece.
While we are well aware of the plethora of accumulated sketches maintained by Leonardo Di Vinci and Michael Angelo, the underlying grid and drawing of a painting is less obvious to us. Titled as 'Drawing Mandalas', the current exhibition at the Canvas Art Gallery leaves the viewer a little bit confused – a quick glance at all the frames with different mediums mixing and mingling is followed by an immediate attempt to Google the word 'mandalas' on your phone: to put it extremely simply it translates as a circle in Sanskrit, a common symbol in Hindu and Asian art). However this hesitation in putting two and two together changes quite drastically when you actually read the text handed to you at the gallery.
"Drawing Mandala's embraces the'ritualistic', resonating the relationship between the ambivalent and the human consciousness. The project girdles the artists' spontaneity, commitment and devotion manifesting as an emanated drawing. It supports meditation through repetition, focus and discipline. The curated artists have brought to the platform their unique sense of perception and skill through their respective discipline. The artists have worked with the ideas of patterns, objects and symbols as a highly enriching experience. The project talks of the deeply desired, of connections, of the motivated and of self awareness."
The key word over here is surprisingly 'project'. Knowing that the exhibition has a continuous connection, a group effort, and a link with the work and the artists, the gallery space produces a somewhat permanent (yet personal) collaboration, even while the pieces themselves focus on different issues and collective ideas.
Different facets and elements are incorperated into each artists' work, starting off with Abid Aslam's four pieces which are created by eyelets punched on to his work surface, recreating the effect of a pixelated photograph. Choosing to depict monumental landscapes and trademark scenes within Pakistan, his technique of breaking down the image into tiny circles provokes the viewer to think about how these areas of importance were created and for what they represent, for example the Minar-e Pakistan piece. Combining a truly unique technique of pictorial storytelling, the network of coloured rings are not just attractive but a very effective method in communicating with the viewer.
While Abid Aslam's work almost duplicates the process of atoms and molecules getting together to formulate a piece of art behind a glass frame, Manisha Jiani's work reflects more upon the deconstruction and deformation of things. The four pieces exhibited by her in Canvas are said to be inspired by a computer hanging up and loading during a phase of malfunctioning. As we have all (rather unfortunately) experienced those moments of intense frustration when technology conveniently dies on you, these vicious lines created by ink, acrylic and needle somehow relate to all viewers because of the ownership and usage of technology. The artist has explained that the deformation and fluctuation of lines fabricate the link between the continuous re-morphing humans undergo in life. Fascinated by change, transformation and disfiguration, Manisha Jiani's study of the linear evolve into pieces which produce a lot of energy, her piece "Sky For Sale" is particularly interesting because of the serene cobalt blue sky and fuzzy white cloud being interrupted by a series of black lines vibrating up and down. Similarily her piece, 'The Digital World' focuses on a vertically following pattern scratched through representing a formation being torn into something completely different.
The brochure describes Maria Khan's drawings as if to "imply the body, interaction, and proximity. The figures seem transparent with overlapped limbs as if in movement calling to the subconscious."
The transparency of the body is shown through many techniques, the most apparent being the pencil shading the blurring of the charcoal merging the background with the body. Another way in which the 'corpulent' bodies are shown to be transparent are the number of lines running across the skin which could be just wrinkles of the flesh appear to be like veins, protruding against the body creating an even more eerie feel to the work. A sharp contrast of blossoming roses, a fulfilling symbol of youth and beauty adorn dangerously convoluted bodies of women. This analysis of the inner beauty of a woman immediately connects with any viewer as the corruption of the body instigated by media and many other 21st century factors. Her piece 'Grape WINE' draws a connection to the Garden of Eden as there are trees of grape and fruit swaying in the background recreating the image of the area where man is believed to have committed the first sin, furthermore, the darkness and intensity of the charcoal heightens the eerie feeling.
From transformation to transience, Seher Naveed's work entangles with a cluster of concepts which press upon the viewer to ponder about numerous themes simultaneously. The pieces exhibited by her could be said to replicate a board game; the layers of checker board patterns, staircases and windows drawing the eye up, down and horizontally and the 3D effect of cut out paper drawings on glass invite the viewer to travel along the architectural spaces created by the artist. It is almost like traversing around in an unknown house or peeking through a very secretive window into the hallway or kitchen of an abandoned home. Interestingly enough Seher Naveed's work is intended on peeling through the layers of what creates a house a home, the families that have used the rooms, the number of times a wall has been impressed by a finger print...this devoids architectural structures of their inanimate construction materials and makes us think of buildings (especially houses) as areas of human interaction and an atmosphere of layered personal experiences. Her concept of memories is enhanced by the replicated patterns and the shadows of the cut out drawings onto the glass. Colours such as sepia, grey, burnt orange and scarlet red signify both moments of wistful reminiscing and moments of clear cut memories.
The final artist of the show, Shiblee Munir interacts with the experiences of life as well, especially within the constraints and 'obligations' which come in every stage. These restrictions and boundaries which we are all well versed with are artistically represented through the linear in Shiblee Munir's work, once again highlighting the importance of drawing for the group exhibition. Although everyone experiences their own versions of boundary lines in life, Munir plays with the restrictions of the art of miniature paintings. The three pieces of work could be inspired solely by landscape visuals but at the same time vaguely mystify into ambiguous forms symbolic of many problems and hurdles one could encounter while on this planet
Drawing has clearly been the umbrella of all personal philosophies contemplated upon by the above mentioned artists. Whether it be dedicated designs and intricate techniques or vague graphite shading, the ever expansive meanings behind the line in each piece contributes to the solid role of drawing in art.