(by VEERA RUSTOMJI)
Amongst the hustle bustle of Zamzama, panicking shoppers dart across narrow streets while valet drivers feebly attempt at parking, through no fault of their own that is. The lively atmosphere is the true essence of Karachi's upper class lifestyle – endless, chaotic, multiplying and diverse. Tucked away towards the end of the shopping street lies Grandeur Gallery, where numerous exhibitions have taken place and owns an ideal location of overlooking the main road. While the name is quite synonymous with the glamour of the shops which surround the gallery, it is what lies inside, on the walls of the showcase room which prove to be an interesting contrast to the lifestyles of Karachi's elite.
It can be argued however that all artists, wealthy or not, extrapolate inspiration from their surroundings to voice concern or just curiosity. What is of interest in this particular exhibition is the range of moods and themes projected from the array of paintings which blend, contrast and in general can be compared to the surroundings of the Grandeur Gallery. One of the stark contrasts would be the work of Zohaib Khan which revolved around the theme 'intezar ka safar'. Engulfing his paintings into conceptual yet relatable compositions and symbols, Khan happily and enthusiastically speaks about his work and relevance. While discussing the theme of his paintings, the artist pointed out that life is in itself the best example of an endless journey, the stages of life are simple pit stops, in our journey where we as humans continue to anticipate the expected and the unexpected from life. This is probably not an attempt to categorise life on the artist's behalf, but to lament or explain it through his skills. The streaks of ink which take up the body of crows and shapes in the background are reminiscent of the rocky landscape of mountain ranges. The rigid uneven levels of the northern areas are well depicted in this abstract form and communicate the difficulty one has to undertake when traveling within Northern areas. According to the Khan the little tints of white from the ink streaks are replicating the little slithers of hope, light and possibility we have in our lives while the predominant black is the burden forever weighing upon mankind.
Having chosen crows as the living organic symbol in his paintings, Khan justifies this unusual decision by explaining that crows have no permanent home, neither are they kept as pets by human hence they encompass the 'black and white perspective' the artist has on life. His work is quite dark and mysterious but it does project a very apparent reality.
Choosing to recreate a very different kind of reality in her work in the exhibition was Shanzay Sabzwari, her work on display mainly focused upon the expressive details and glamour which our bridal culture is engulfed into. Enamored by the effortless beauty from the appearance and aura of brides, her work reveals a large degree of attention spent on details; glistening beads, heavy borders of embroidery, gentle and stiff folds of chiffon and silk convey not just the glamour of bridal fashion but connotations of sensuality with the assistance of a heavy dosage of Pakistani culture.
When asked why she chose this particular theme, Sabzwari casually yet honestly admitted that since an early age she always ended up doodling figures of women whenever and wherever she could. The 5 by 7 feet canvas on display is clearly a long way from her doodles and is seriously commendable as a talented university going student to create a balance of time in order to pursue a career, her creativity and a degree at the same time.
Although her work is on the whole quite realistic in appearance, the paintings do have their own sense of style; graceful postures and similar facial features on the women portrayed upon canvas, give away the inclinations of the artist.
While Sabzwari's work concentrates on the feminine grace entangled with the exotic romance and jewelry of the Eastern culture, Rabia Dawood's art proved to be a very stark contrast. Dawood's personalities portrayed are somber yet powerful. The 'talash taash k patton me' theme resulted in one of the most creative miniature paintings the gallery has seen. Intensely accurate portrayals of legendary and inspirational people from Pakistan's history occupy tiny positions as a center piece of cards with the K, Q and J motifs for King, Queen and Jack at the corners of the paintings which appear on card stacks.
Dawood attempts at explaining the impression, the people in her paintings such as Fatima Jinnah, have had on our lives through the fine detailing of wrinkles, strands of hair, and aloof expressions. What is most amazing about her work, and moreover the artist herself is that, she had only recently explored the art of miniature. Although having a degree in Fine Art obviously helped, her skill and understanding of the technique is quite remarkable.
Tahir A. Bhatti's work consisted of elongated whorls of pen and ink illustrates strands of hair curving and fanned out across the compositions. The commitment to drawing out countless locks of hair is to draw a parallel to the number of barriers and troubles which women inevitably encounter in society, at home, within their own families and while attempting to gain self identity. As hair is always associated with the epitome of feminine culture and the softness yet strength of a woman's personality, it is apt that the artist has created this comparison.
The other exhibits were done by Saadia Shahid, Nazar-ul-Islam and Ali Abrar. The lively landscapes by Ali Abrar are distinct in style, theme and technique. His creative indulgence can be seen in the appliance of paint giving the viewers a sense of the atmosphere being depicted but through the artist's eyes. Nazar-ul-Islam's worked was by far one of the most conceptual amongst the exhibition. Using birds as symbols as Khan has done so, Islam's compositions echoed the presence and absence of self in constraint situations. While his work is largely left to an audience's interpretation, his work sincerely captures one's attention because of the plethora of means one can make from his pieces.
Constable's Lock Back On The Market
A scene by John Constable which for 16 years held the record as the most valuable British painting ever sold is up for auction at Christie's, with an estimate of up to £25 million. Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza bought The Lock for £10.8 million in 1990 after the National Museum of Wales failed to raise the asking price. It is being sold by his widow Carmen Thyssen.