by VEERA RUSTOMJI
Art has proved to be a successful and repeated form of an outlet for humanists. Expressing the desire for change, portraying the different images of man and translating images inspired by the struggle of humanity communicate so effectively with an audience. The universal longing for peace and, quite simply, a better world is an innate element within all human beings and artists are the ones who are able to churn out these repressed emotions and question situations, hence they are able to show the effect of nature on the human spirit through creativity.
Orchestrating the feelings of emptiness, loneliness and the degeneration of the human soul, artists personify the struggle of mankind which in this utilitarian society is severely ignored. One artist in Pakistan, Zarah David, prevails to highlight the basic essentials of being a genuine human being through her work. Her intense engagement with the themes involved in her landscape paintings are prominently explained through the style of her art. It is absolutely no surprise to feel a deep lyricism sweeping across her canvases through the form of wind and thick brush strokes blending colours effortlessly. The art circles of Pakistan are well versed with her work and she is one of the most respected and talented artists in our country because of her work, and her contributions to education and widening the horizons for many young artists. While nurturing her love for music and art, David has shared her gift and embodies her own philosophy of eliminating suffering and increasing freedom of expression opportunities in her lifestyle.
Her recent exhibition of paintings at the Oceans Art Gallery in Karachi can be classified as landscape paintings but they don't particularly speak of the aesthetics of landscape. David has consequently used the possibilities instigated from composing landscape art to channel her feelings. The movement of the air, the effects of light and shadow and the inter-relationship with colour and the smooth texture of her brush strokes all have an effect on the moods and stories her paintings speak of. In her own statement, David has verbally illustrated her view on the significance of colour, "Colour is such an integral part of our lives. Our feelings, moods, what we wear, our likes and dislikes are all expressed with colour." One of the most vibrant pieces of the collection, aptly titled 'Sunset', conveys the magnitude of her spectacular colour usage. Her understanding of the captivating features of the simple elements of nature are met with transforming movement with radiant cadmium reds and oranges hinted with burnt umber and Indian red. Blending into rich purples and charcoal greys, David formulates a series where the translucent blending of an array of shades creates a mood which draws the viewer's eye to explore the layers of her paintings. Almost hypnotising, the canvases set a very Zen feel which one can get lost into so easily. Surges of pigment and minimal use of form dominate her stylistic features, bare thin black tree pushed with a gust of wind, isolated tents, and spare settlements infused with a powerful eerie and mystical aura compel the viewers to remember these scenes.
Provocative yet extremely sensitive, the enduring luminosity of her canvases brings together 'vision and soul'. With the intermingling notes of faint music and echoes of nature, David's paintings aren't ever jarring yet they pull the attention of the viewers, much like a classical concert or any sort of mellow music performance. Her mastery over communicative and evocative landscape compositions is probably due to the emphasis placed on specialising in landscape painting during her years as an art student in Punjab University.
The physical components of her work are merely the clothing of her paintings, the real soul of them are the moods and expression of the artist while using the medium of landscape. Evidently, David carries many of her lessons at university till today, but this is not her sole inspiration. David's parents, Anna Molka Ahmed and Sheikh Ahmed most probably nurtured her innate artistic genes as both were very prominent and watched artists during their active years. Realising the importance of passing on knowledge through her mother, David has endorsed to some extent her mother's enthusiasm on educating the young and talented. Her passion for the betterment of people is seen even in her paintings because of the intimacy involved in the atmospheric scenes. Portrayed figures with their backs turned and bowed head signals the feeling of lost identity and opportunities which David is so concerned with when it comes to the youth of Pakistan. Cool soft turquoises and greys emerge from the canvas forming cloudy and hazy effects emphasising insecurity and isolation. Her paintings can't really be termed as 'dark' but they are definitely deep. Deep in the sense, it awakens feelings of sadness in a viewer who is not even partial to art in the first place. Being a colour consultant, David seems to understand how colours connect with people, how they evoke emotion and to what extent people are inclined to prefer some colours over others depending on the mind's ever changing temperament.
Many of the paintings involve settings of bare branches and trees, while their symbolism may be disputed, there is a certain contradictory depiction. The leafless branches and the stark black trunk could reflect upon the cruelty, pain and suffering man's barren life has been forced to encounter. However, perhaps David is trying to depict the simplicities of life through her minimal trees. The little efforts and contributions in making the earth a more loving place could be tied in with the elegant strokes of lines, translating the beauty of all things simple. As does most of her work confess the significance of human emotion with Mother Nature's condition, David finds her representational art a form of expression which takes over. In her statement, David writes about how painting is a completely organic experience which is spontaneous and interactive with the soul, she seems to naturally understand her creativity and its power the best. Although her exhibition ended in the beginning of March, much of her work and theory is available online, which is a must do research for art lovers.