Churidaars, Chappals &
(by VEERA RUSTOMJI)
Pursuing a career as an artist in the Pakistani culture can be a tough choice, both socially and financially, it is in fact no surprise when parents encourage their children into the fields of maths or science. However deviating from the custom is not always a bad thing; within the many genres and historic movements of art itself, the most innovative artists have been the ones who brought change and most importantly development. For example Caravaggio transported the style of art of his generation from Classicism to Realism, the reason being the development of the camera obscura and the concentration of the effect of light and shadows.
Our country has too experienced some exceptionally conceptual growth within art and culture, the magnitude of traditions and artifacts within our heritage has provided budding artists with a reservoir of inspiration. The endless reformations and stylisation of the Mughal and Persian miniature continue to endure within the trained and untrained artists; truck art, calligraphy and arabesque are a few of the many other components which are sprinkled across countless canvases in galleries. A huge response was received by a Marilyn Monroe portrait painted by Summaiya Jillani, a 2010 art graduate, engulfing the Hollywood goddess in a world that is visually familiar to the artist – the canvas has an unusual and quirky universal appeal. Of course the most apparently amusing fact about the portrait is the vibrating influx of colours, prints and accessories which seem to have been swiped straight out off Meena Bazaar and dabbled away fashionably on Monroe. Her trademark pose which is engraved in everyone's mind of her white dress flowing, sparkling teeth glinting through her scarlet lips, looks unimaginably different on Jillani's canvas.
The heavy dosage of acrylics and floral print amalgamating from background to the centre is an additional siren to the woman who is an icon in pop art, movies and everything to do with old school glamour. It is really interesting for the viewer to think about what Marilyn Monroe truly represents and then to engage with Jillani's creation. The painting titled 'Baar baar dekho, hazaar baar dekho' ensures Marilyn Monroe to still appear so untarnished and out of this world, that we can hear her faint chuckle and smell the lustrous perfume and mascara on her. The change of her environment, clothes and feet, especially are alterations that are not just dramatic changes, as the facial beauty of Marilyn still captures our attention.
Glamorised, or localised, the parandah attached to her ruffled blonde waves, is highlighted in hues of reds and browns, layer upon layer swirling inwards. Her anarkali styled kameez blows out revealing a maroon churidaar making her outfit look like the typical mehndi ensemble; not to forget her feet which have been slipped out off her silver super sleek stilettos and into the embroidered chappals – the portrait has to be one of the most creative reinventions the galleries of Pakistan have seen.
Having studied Fine Arts at the University of Karachi, Summaiya Jillani is clearly inspired by an impressionistic themed style of painting, the contrasting and complementing pigments bursting through her work are not just in word 'colourful' but extremely lively. The flesh tones, rumples of cloth and strands of hair are given much more depth. Summaiya Jillani's collection also featured a Frida Kahlo painting in which the exuberant theme of flowers continued to traverse across the canvas creating a flowing dress of bright blossoms. Her protrusive jaw bones and dark eyebrows combine with elements from the Marilyn Monroe painting and although both women are not just physically poles apart, their work and spirit are very much legendary. Frida Kahlo herself drew upon her own culture massively for artistic reasons and her work speaks of her own dark problems yet they are emphasised by the bright colours of Mexico. The enhancement of these colours by Jillani is quite complementary to Frida Kahlo's cause and nature. This is similar with Marilyn Monroe as she was a flamboyant woman who in fact created a culture of her own, both women are so idolised by generations of the past and the present, that altering world famous images of them somehow spreads the message of their undying associations. Jillani is not just accustomed to the canvas – there is a vast array of materials the artist has used such as soft drink cans, kitchen boards, bags and t-shirts. Aside from the riveting use of material, one has to really check out the artists work online. She paints everything from the larger than life figures to completely mundane activities, such as an aerial view of a group of adolescents gathered on a carpet eating pizza and dousing down on soft drink. It could be said that the artist also enjoys the traditional print and embroidery of clothes as it is a continuous feature in her work. What is the most prominent element in Jillani's work however is her use of paint – vacillating between what we call today 'super high definition' realism and texturised acrylic impressionism, there is no categorical way to describe her style, but it is quite breathtaking. One thinks of Monet's elaborately layered canvases of lilies, Bashir Mirza's harsh strokes of highlights and flesh tones, Dali's displacement and rearrangement of the obvious to the unexpected – yet the themes and styles of an artist should never really be restricted and clearly Jillani's work has not fallen into the trap.
The most famous of all paintings on Marilyn Monroe has to be the Andy Warhol depiction; even the least artistically inclined people will have a bell ring in their minds after seeing it. His creation and portrayal of her was clearly because of what she represented to him and of our world, and she has since then graced her way through all genres of art making herself forever unforgettable.