Uzma Sultan and Qadir Jhatial showcase at Koel
An exhibition mounted at the Koel Gallery Karachi, showed the work of two artists whose exciting handling of colours, diverse media and space created dramatic narratives with global symbolism. The two artists are Uzma Sultan, who graduated from the Slade School of Art in 1999 and is currently based in London, while Qadir Jhatial is an artist already attracting attention, a graduate of the National College of Arts, Lahore in 2012 and now lives and works in that city.
Introducing the work to the audience, on the list of artworks shown was appropriately quoted the words of the renowned American artist, Georgia O’Keefe: I found I could say something with colours and shapes that I couldn’t say any other way – things I had no words for.
Uzma Sultan who holds a degree in MFA is well-known in Karachi where she had mounted four earlier exhibitions; the first at the Sadequain Gallery, Frere Hall, Karachi. In the UK her work has been mounted at The Cut Gallery, Waterloo, Whitechapel Project Space and The Mall Galleries, among others and has even exhibited her work in Germany.
Since her first public exhibition, the artist’s use of diverse material has been a significant aspect of her signature style. In 2014, she was an artist-in-residence at Glogauair, Berlin where she worked on a food commercialisation and advertising project, the results of which may be seen in exhibition here for the first time. Previously, one had viewed the artist’s highly decorative series of rooms, combining settings of period traditional furniture with unexpected touches to surprise the audience. In a painting with oil on vinyl Ajrak, Sultan shows full length curtains of ajrak material in the setting of a Victorian furnished room, combining symbols of present and past. An artwork titled English Lace is worked with oil on linen. In other artworks, the artist uses diverse media as surfaces for her work such as aluminum, Perspex and board, as well as canvas. A still life, When in Berlin Spring Flowers, painted with oil on canvas creates the impression of time well-spent, perhaps to be repeated when the artist returns this year to the Loci Loft in Berlin.
In the artist’s change of mood, she looks eastward with a series that touched on abstract expressionism with compositions creating simplified, multiple images of familiar objects in eye-catching colour schemes. Paan Shop, Chilli Saas; Cooking Oil composed of piles of tins, Charpoys viewed from an unusual angle and colourful decorated Buses. Sultan’s most recent exhibition was held in the 2014 Liverpool Independents Biennale, UK. Thematically it appears the artist is concerned with the way that people relate to their surroundings in the present times, often with a satirical edge.
Showing his work with Sultan at Koel, Jhatial is an exciting young artist whose work we have seen with interest in Karachi when contributing to various art events. There is so much suggested in the artist’s work by the movement, merging light and dark colours, people, busy streets and changing moods. One finds the contrast of the activity of frantic traffic and elsewhere the suggestion of a sad figure sitting on the edge of his bed and perhaps not quite ready to face the day.
Jhatial already has a considerable experience of mounting exhibitions to his credit.
In 2013, he participated in an Emerging Artist’s workshop held by the US Embassy at the NCA; and in 2012 showed his work in a two-artist exhibition at the Rohtas Gallery, Islamabad. The artist showed his work in group shows in Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi, and earlier this year, his work was mounted in a solo exhibition titled: Streetwise at the Khaas Art Gallery, Islamabad.
The art mounted at the Koel Gallery is worked with enamel on canvas. It is an extremely interesting and thought-provoking experience for an audience as he observes and paints the world around him slightly out of focus. One feels the need to wear the coloured specs as used for third dimensional images in cinemas to discover the artist’s clever essaying of the forms. The artist takes the viewer on a journey of changing moods. On occasions images juxtaposing areas of bright colour appear contained within strong dark contrasts of the surroundings, perhaps a darker aspect of human nature. The style of metamorphosis in the colouration creates numerous suggestions of the observed with the imagined, inviting the viewer’s participation in the scene. It is perhaps too soon for Jhatial to have found a permanent style of expression though he is obviously an artist who will travel far. One waits with interest for future showings of his work.