Fantastical Portrayals Of Women
(by VEERA RUSTOMJI)
The body of a woman has been viewed as quintessential to the survival of art throughout the globe; as it represents an array of issues which have continued to exist throughout the development of mankind. The grace, tenderness, strength and fertility have always enamored male artists and few decades ago, the mere idea of a woman depicting the female body was literally unheard of. Yet as time passes by we have come to recognise that to understand the role of women in art history and present day, female artists have proved to be more empathic and appreciative in their art work.
Analysing the contribution of women in Pakistan's art circle is a particularly difficult task because there are some very well known names who have been recognised by the media, whilst at the same time there are always budding artists which do not get considered into the contribution. The exhibition exposing the Women Fantasies by Aliya Faizi and Zebun Zuby is a primary source of an example where every single effort should be taken into consideration. The stylistic features of the artists' work were apparent contrasts of portraying the same subject and relatively the same themes. Using different materials and concepts of interpretation, the ideal of women for each of the artists were reflected very evidently in their work.
The fantastical element played a huge role in this exhibition, with unrealistic and exaggerated distortions and decoration allowing the viewer to concentrate on what was the sole idea behind each artist's work. Aliya Faizi's work, for example, has a direct connection with the very existence of being human and revolves around the figurative aspect in which she has decided to use the woman in her paintings as a mode of artistic communication. The clay work which she exhibits however is also in relation to her paintings as they are her initial source of inspiration for her paintings. Keeping in balance composition, subject, object and colours, Aliya Faizi highlights the contours of the female anatomy with the concept of clay and forms made from clay. Studies for instance Nicholas David, Judy Sterner and Kodzo Gavua's artcile 'Why Pots are Decorated' in Current Anthropology, have interestingly enough showed that the decoration of pots are in fact related to the human body.
Her paintings are a module of emphasising the essence of all form being made of clay, the earth. This theory is intermingled with the powerful use of colour which exists in her clay work as well. The bright ultramarines are toned complementarily with oranges allowing the flowing and undefined shape of the clay models to reflect upon the abstract and cubist forms of women on the canvases. Her use of colour is not diluted and translates a series of differential moods and themes, as Aliya Faizi believes colour is a contingent upon the human state of mind. The glossy glazed effect of the clay pottery is quite different however from the rough and brash strokes of paint on canvas; largely established upon shape and function within the composition, the artist has considered many aspects in her work.
Zebun Zuby's paintings are quite different from the aforementioned artist, yet her paintings focus on a significant usage of colour and exaggeration. The human mind of the artist has always felt inclined to exaggerate aspects of the body which are integral to their stream of thought or culture. Elongating eyes, dark hair, spread out lashes and lean torsos are some of the few repeated features of imaginative women from the East. However Zebun Zuby's take of fantastical women is a bit different especially after closer inspection. There are dosages of Mughal miniature inspiration with the presence of birds, flowers and long bundles of hair cascading down; however, the posture, clothes and figures themselves are a lot more realistically created and it is obviously up to the viewer's own opinion, but one can strongly feel that the artist has tried to depict the different components and associations of the Eastern woman. Beauty, tenderness and elegance are all present, but it is projected in refreshingly new ways, for instance long arms, thin branches and swirling petals. Her usage of colour strikes a parallel with Aliya Faizi as the ever present orange and blues within the clothes and makeup of the women team up to project warm tones and conjures and earthly feeling of the women.
There is an ever present mystical and ethereal quality to the paintings which is a dual component in the artists' work. Whereas Aliya Faizi's work concentrated on geometrical, abstract, linear and composition of form, Zebun Zeby's work is built upon the flow of nature and the softness and demureness of female features. Many of the postures and compositions speak of a tranquility and peacefulness which engulf the women portrayed in the paintings. It can also be observed that the artist has focused on drapery and accessories too, whereas Aliya Faizi's work is more concerned with the general shape and dimension of the forms and their contribution to her work. The detail of the white luminous jewelry is at first glamorous but it works harmoniously with some compositions. Some depictions re create the women involved in very mundane moments which aren't riveting but it speaks of a culture and lifestyle of women which the artist is herself quite acquainted with.
To deliberately involve oneself with human compositions and the study of the human body would of course be unnatural and commercial. The extent to which artists such as Aliya Faizi and Zebun Zeby prove to be a pleasant distinct contrast as they internalise personal aspects of their artistic theories and experiences with their process of work. Forming an array of skills while exploring different possibilities within a similar subject, over here it would be the female form, is not an easy task. Yet artists such as the ones mentioned have found ways to concentrate and highlight such vastly different elements. However, the really 'fantasy' truly lies with the viewer and their take on the stories which are painted.