A Multitude Of Perspectives
(by VEERA RUSTOMJI)
Competition is an inevitable factor which coincides with every field of employment and having to prove your work and level of skill is clearly a daily regime. An interesting conflict develops with this theory in an art gallery... between the walls of exhibited work and sculptures the viewer is unconsciously forced to choose their favourite piece or artist and the clarity of observation projected by an artist exudes so much personality that the element of subjectivity is simply anticipated.
The current collection of artwork at the Canvas Art Galley depicts this entire phenomenon; great masters such as Bashir Mirza propelled with internationally known modern artists from Pakistan conjure a very juxtaposed and multi dimensional view on artwork in our country. The subtle and complicated are linked with the blatant and bright through the gallery walls within the space of the gallery. The best part of the collective art work, for me at least, is the array of meanings and themes the artists aim to communicate with through their pieces, modern art in particular has been directed towards this agenda. David Britt describes Modernism and it's relationship with art in his book 'Impressionism to Post Modernism' as being "a single phenomenon, because of and not in spite of its multiple versions of reality. For every 'plane of meaning', Modernism has a movement. Its multiplicity is its message, and the source of its excitement."
This multiplicity is a reoccurring component in the well-known Hamra Abbas work thematically and physically in appearance. Layers of skin accumulate on top of one another to provide the reality of texture yet a large degree of artificiality can be sensed in the sculptures. The heads seem to be slightly frightening with their plastered smiles and shiny pink skin. However the technique in which the skin has been arrange and built upon communicate a particular homogenous feel. Hamra Abbas's explanation of her work and examination of people can be linked to this appearance of the work on exhibit.
"I began to take note of the quotidian in my immediate environment and took to photography as the most efficient means to do so. I photographed random people while running chores on a daily bases, photographing people working at the supermarkets, post offices, deli stores, restaurants, train stations, construction sites, street vendors, handy-men, and taxi-drivers etc. This gradually turned into a photo journal of the day-to-day. Asking to take their photograph for no reason other than my being an artist animated and displaced the moment, and expanded time. In exchanging greetings, and short encounters, I realised how a quick contact and a conversation with a stranger, does entangle or compel us into a web of relationship, and has the potential to transform us."
Untangling the 'web' of relationships seems to be quite apparent in Komail Aijazuddin's altar piece as the artist integrates cross cultural art work and tradition to explore religion as a global institution and the question of one's own religion in this highly homogenous world. Using key features from the renaissance and biblical paintings to portray and discuss Islamic mythology, Komail Aijazuddin ventures into a style which has been extremely rare. The altar paintings are able to close and open which when described by the artist is understood better.
"Each altar can be shut closed to conceal the scenes within, both as a nod to religious icons and as a feature I conceived to make it easy to hide offense."
Efforts made by artists to integrate and explain barriers across the world through their art whether it is in religion, education or society are extremely representative of urban culture. Endorsing the urban culture and enlightenment in Pakistan is Ali Azmat, his rebel music and artwork continue to shake the mundane incidents in our lives which we take for granted or have grown immune to. The bold emerald of the Pakistani flag parcel littered with red flowers is bright and powerful, and to get a more wholesome understanding of this collection one should really view it online. His work is engulfed in patriotism and paradoxically, disappointment. Ali Azmat's empathy and devotion to the people of his country can not only be translated easily to his viewers through his paintings but in his written statement.
"The artist has suffered with his people who know that the religion of their fore-fathers is being debased. These works emerge from feelings of anger and distress, yet are strong statements much needed at this moment of our history. Ali Azmat has demonstrated his commitment to the role of artist in society.
Moeen Faruqi's piece which is to be exhibited with the group show is cumulatively a comment on culture and society. The artist is known for exploring and projecting the disparity in society and its movement from the initial roots which formed it; the reoccurring appearance of fish in his paintings is the perfect symbol to highlight these issues as the water animal is taken out of its natural habitat and displaced in the painting. The strong pigments of cobalt blue, cadmium reds and bright forest greens colour his figures playing emphasis on surreal tonal shades and muscle contours which creates a more interesting environment for his themes.
There is also a colour captivating piece by Bashir Mirza featuring stark dashes of paint across the face encapsulating the 'Sealed Lips' series from the artist, and it strikes a chord with Ali Azmat and Moeen Faruqi's style of painting. The bold, politically infused themes come to play with the vibrant colours and the viewer is forced to recognise the strong messages of their work.
On the other hand however, the work of each artist has a heavy dosage of personality; the potency and uniqueness are contingent upon not just the level of creativity, but the individual messages in their work. This makes the ever present subjectivity of art more than an issue, but a pleasure to view and write about.