In present times throughout Pakistan, art is a diverse, vibrant phenomenon, rapidly expanding and acknowledged by way of exhibitions in galleries at home as well as globally, in international art circles. Reviewing the art scene in 2016, one discovers artists freely fusing contemporary developments with traditional nuances. Throughout the year, artists continued to extend the possibilities explored by previous generations and exploited new media; videos, computers and the internet. All methods are a means of creating original art involving the further dimensions of modern life. Artists of today are free to explore electronic media, digital art forms, photography and films to express their art idioms in individual ways.
Throughout the ages, art that reflects the environment and times of the artist has been produced. In many of the exhibitions shown at galleries in 2016, the viewer was introduced to new artistic forms – uncompromised by the past – in which to express fresh ideas and perspectives.
One finds that global and cultural developments have brought about changes to the context in which artists work, encouraging the exploration of different forms and materials as one way of responding to a radically changing social and cultural environment. Viewing modern art in Pakistan, one examines the reasons why artists use and adapt the forms they do in order to examine the meanings.
The art galleries of every region of the country offer an exciting diversity of original artworks with artists reflecting their thoughts and feelings on the world around them, intermingled with ethnic reflections. One recently viewed the work of Jamil Baloch whose first exhibition in ’93 showed the artist’s very original style of sculpture, he had also painted portraits full of life and personality. Now a much travelled and experienced faculty member of National College of Arts, Jamil’s latest work is composed of lines and patterns worked in variations of seven colours that were traditionally used in embroidery and weaving in his homeland, Balochistan, executed in minimalist style.
At Canvas gallery recently, Mohammad Ali Talpur, a renowned artist, had a fascinating display of three dimensional, rectangular work, artworks representative of their times, while Amar Jamal exhibited her latest contemporary drawings, along with a sequence of exquisitely painted miniature works. These are representative of the wonderful work in art that is underway throughout the country. With this in mind, a recent display of work of young artists – several showing their artworks publicly for the first time – was arranged at a gallery space intended for young artists at the Movenpick Hotel, Karachi. The event that represented young artists of current times, was curated by 19-year-old Shehzar Abro, an artist who painted a Venice scene covering one wall of the Hotel’s Italian restaurant, his favourite place in the city of Venice. Abro, who is currently preparing to study film-making abroad, introduced the artists quoting Picasso, “The artist is a receptacle for emotions that come from all over the place: from the sky, from the earth, from a scrap of paper, from a passing shape, from a spider’s web.” He chose a dissimilar group of up-and-coming young artists who combined to make a strong show that was very much appreciated by guests invited for the inauguration of the gallery site. Among the audience, one discovered Amin Gulgee who has been a positive influence in the work of young unknown artists from all regions of the country.
Altogether, there were 29 artworks displayed by artists: Attia Rashid, Faizan Tariq, Fatema Mandviwala, Saad Irfan, Sana Nezam, Zeenat Rizvi, Maryam Zaidi, Zeenat Rizvi, Ahsan Mohiuddin, Alina Khwaja, Sara Pagganwala, Jumana Tayyebi, Mahwish Ehsan, Safwan Islam, Radia Durrani, Fatimah Sabeekah, Zehra Fatima, Samina Hadi Raza, with an entry by Shehzar Abro, and a stunning large scale image of Karachi photographed by the renowned camera artist, Jamal Ashiqain whose participation was a compliment to the artists whose work was displayed.
Geometric forms have been used in Islamic art for centuries, and in the work of Mahwish, the geometric shapes enter the world of contemporary art. Sabeekah contemplates selfish human nature compared to writhing maggots, while Sara mused on issues of self-identity which, she explained, is often influenced by the views of others. Alina revealed inner feelings of identity, while Faizan used digital methods of photography in his work. Fatema beautified areas of the city, and Sana Nezam showed a portrait of Rumi, symbolising a message of love and peace for the world. The individuality of the art displayed, appeared as an allegorical exercise in the sensitivity of the young artists, showing their feelings and thoughts of the world around them. One may learn a great deal by studying the astute observations of these young artists with potential, artists who express inner feelings in highly personal statements.