MAG THE WEEKLY | ART
THE RECOLLECTIONS OF YBQ
by MARJORIE HUSAIN
13 - 19 June, 2015
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THE RECOLLECTIONS OF YBQ THE RECOLLECTIONS OF YBQ THE RECOLLECTIONS OF YBQ THE RECOLLECTIONS OF YBQ

The Canvas Gallery, Karachi, is an exciting art centre; perhaps the closest there is to an art museum in the city. There, paintings are exhibited on three floors, and visitors are welcome to visit and peacefully enjoy the diverse artworks away from the hustle and bustle of the busy town. As well as regular exhibitions of contemporary art, Canvas has hosted a number of book launches and lectures by distinguished guests, but perhaps one of the most unusual items was a recent event showcasing the work of Yusuf Bashir Qureshi titled: Recollections. Hosting the event was the fashion icon Frieha Altaf, who is an outstanding pioneer of the fashion events in Karachi, and Sameera Raja the owner of the Canvas gallery who is dedicated to the promotion of the international contemporary art movement in Pakistan.
Yusuf Bashir Quershi, popularly known as YBQ, runs a fashion house cum art gallery known as the Commune, in Miskeen Gali off old Queens Road. It is an enormous warehouse where one finds exhibitions of paintings, sculpture and photography taking place, with drama events, films and a design section with clothes designed by YBQ. There are clothes that are shown on sculpted forms, body casts of real people. The Commune is a place where sculptors have room to work and there is always a lot going on. For the Recollection event, Samira Raja coordinated with Frieha Altaf to arrange a one evening exhibition of the work of YBQ with a performance.
As an art enthusiast, I usually attend exhibitions before the official opening in order to view the work at length and undisturbed; but not on this occasion. I arrived early to find the gallery full of beautiful people. There were models, actors, celebrities and fashion designers in every section of the gallery, talking excitedly in groups and awaiting the arrival of YBQ. Photographers had arrived and there was much to photograph; the audience as well as art pieces in a diversity of mixed media with paintings, sculpture, installations and photographic prints. Working her way through the stars of the fashion world to view the art, an artist friend wistfully murmured that she wished such crowds would turn up for art exhibitions repeatedly. My attention was caught by a series of mixed media sculpted portraits, the recognisable life sized features of the sitter, painted gold and emerging from a square block; the unpainted white back of another artwork carrying the print of a hand, perhaps the artist’s or the sitter’s. Among them was Shahnaz Ismail, Ratti Jinnah and Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy; one was exploring the portrait of a favourite luminary the cricketer Waseem Akram, when he appeared – all smiles – in the gallery to the excitement of the crowd.
Soon, the star of the evening appeared – YBQ wore a kamiz, a dhoti and a turban and appeared very much at ease among the admiring friends and fans. I found him to be an unassuming and sincere young man when discussing the collection on show. We explored a breathtaking series of photographic prints inlaid on wood of mountain peaks taken from a plane, a beautiful, pristine uninhabited world of heavenly pastel colouration. Door was the title of a large framed piece described as ‘mixed media on vintage wooden door’. Yusuf quietly explained that on the night Benazir was killed, his house was burnt to the ground and only the door remained intact, now framed, a memorial of tragic history. A beautiful, life sized sculpted form, modeled an exquisite ladies garment, and Yusuf patiently explained the details. The artist introduced his father and spoke of the strength he gained from his family. Then excusing himself, YBQ went off to give a performance and the crowd quietened down as he stood upon a small, round dais and spoke about the sharing and transference of power. He summoned the actor Ayub Khosa, and removing his turban, he donned a cap and tied the turban around Khosa’s head. Then, inviting the beautiful actress, Zhalay Sarhadi from the crowd, he removed the turban from Khosa’s head, and wound it around the body of Zhalay.
“When power is shared we are all strong.” The performance that took part in pin drop silence, was just a few minutes long but an appreciably meaningful ending earned an enthusiastic round of applause. Among the artists present, Nahid Raza expressed her delight at the display and admiration for the versatility of the artist. Making our way out, we met up with a young sculptor who is currently working at the Commune on a large sculptor for the National Assembly, and we promised to drop in and see the work. Turning back at the host of people surrounding YBQ, I waved farewell and walked out into the mundane world. Salutations to Samira Raja, Frieha Altaf and YBQ. •

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