Let's Not Talk About Politics
(by VEERA RUSTOMJI)
Politically flavoured art tackles many issues, churning up critical points in history which continue to leave their impact on the present day. The abundantly emergent numbers of artists interested in translating their version of politically inspired art have created a vast array of methods to demonstrate the turbulence and conflicting views on our environment. At the Gandhara Art Gallery, Karachi, an exhibition titled 'Lets Not Talk About Politics' unravels a rather distinct and personal interpretation of politics. The collection of artists did not only project different themes but varying methods and materials adjusting their own take on politics.
The engraved drawings by Adeel uz Zafar immediately commands attention of the viewer as the large pieces of art have a dark and mysterious luminescent contrast to the white walls of the gallery. Bandaged, covered and intricately explained through immaculate detailing, the stuffed toys which have been blown up in size are interesting and curious subjects. A thousand interpretations could be derived from his work, but the stark contrast of tightly bound grey cloth exposing minimal skin of the bright toys provide a hint for the viewers, as we detect the theme of childhood being manipulated to communicate this state of life, that is distorted. A few factors apparent in his work call the viewer's eye to make certain connections; for instance the bandaging revealing the facial part of the stuffed toys making them appear quite strangely dislocated from their purpose. The surprised wide oval eyes peep through almost gruesome yet extremely particularly drawn (engraved on vinyl) bandaging. Similarly comic smiling faces titled 'Protagonist' are dissolved into the tight covering of bandage highlighting the constraints of the inanimate object and dissecting them from the possibility of nurturing and comforting a child. Zafar's accomplishments and qualifications as an artist and teacher render his skill and thought process to be extremely well developed, marking his own self definition and unique characteristics.
Impactful large pieces of art continued to Aisha Khalid's work, her acrylic on canvas piece possessed power and drama from the tangibility factor created with the steel dress making pins forming the word 'dil'. One would immediately find the paradox in using sharp prickly little pins to create 'dil', the most vulnerable and sensitive part of the human body. However, intricate detailed craftsmanship is a trademark style of Khalid's work. The steps of the gallery lead me to a personal little space dedicated for the artist's work creating a kind of connection with the large letters gleaming slightly with the light and fading magenta canvases.
It is not farfetched to see how their work connects to politics, but it does require a certain degree of analysation and involvement on an observer's part. One has to be aware of certain connotations and subtle undertones of 'politics' in their work, perhaps this is a lead to the title of the exhibition. Humanitarian, social and a globalised yet unquestioned lifestyle make the exhibits peripheral and contrastingly, integral to the area of politics.
Furthermore, the exhibition included colourful and refreshingly original takes on miniature technique by the artist Attiya Shaukat. Titled as 'U Turn 1 and 2', her work was deliberately personal, deriving inspiration from her own physical incapability forcing her to certain limits, her story is beautifully integrated into her work. This restriction strikes a similar chord to Zafar's pieces on display at the gallery. However Shaukat's work creates intimate and striking compositions with painted pieces of cloth integrating into patterns while simultaneously using her own appearance and life as a subject. The colours are bright and yet harmonise with each other bringing an unexpected sense of calmness. Since the artwork carries a sense of universal suffering, one can really relate to Shaukat's paintings. Having experienced a life changing accident instigating a fresh perspective on life, her work symbolises an understanding and appreciation of this world. The two pieces on show are also designed very well, in their fluent horizontal flow, the viewer's eye moves across with the composition allowing one to focus and notice on details and shades.
Playing with size, Mahreen Zuberi's contemporary work brought another facet of tangibility with her 'pop up' style art piece. Her exhibits pick up on the lightening and shadows extremely well and while they are very simple it is the empty space that surrounds them which gives it a spotlight of its own. Gleaming white contrasts with shadows and the two pieces interact with each other because of the similarities in the subject. Her prolific exhibitions and participations across the globe increase her artistic scope and understanding of materials and themes. It is also extremely tempting to mischievously flip through her pop up art which is cut up ever so neatly displaying a lot of skill and patience!
While on the topic of skill and patience, any viewer will immediately notice the colourful terracotta bricks composition projecting through the gallery's wall. Noor Ali Chagani has not only utilised the space of the gallery well, but has also painted the walls behind his imposed terracotta bricks, enhancing colour and personal spark to his work. While studying at the National College of Arts in Lahore, pursuing his degree in Fine Arts, Chagani, like any Lahori citizen, had engrossed himself in a series of endless houses and monuments built from the red brick – the signature building material of Lahore. As on his website the artist articulates the red brick as a symbol of the affluent and order within society. His exhibits however, at the Gandhara Gallery are not all red-bricked. Two pieces, one untitled and the other 'Pixels Of My Portrait', involve the terracotta bricks as a communicative source of colour and form. The little details and dashes of bright pinks and cobalt blues attract the viewer to all corners of the bricks. The ornate frame capturing the 'pixels' is the particular kind of piece which viewers are bound to stop at and lose themselves into.
The exhibition continues till the 15th of July and is a must-see, more importantly a must-experience exhibition. Everyone's work, from Zafar's engraved drawings to the terracotta bricks of Chagani's display extremely interesting textures and creativity.