• 30 May - 05 Jun, 2020
  • Rubab Fatima
  • Art

Calligraphy is a highly regarded and fundamental element of Islamic Art. The word calligraphy comes from the Greek words kallos, meaning beauty, and graphein, meaning writing. In the modern sense, calligraphy relates to the art of giving form to signs in an expressive and harmonious manner. Developed from two major styles: Kufic and Naskh; with having several variations of each, as well as regionally specific styles, this form of art is one of the most sophisticated in the world and is a visual expression of the deepest reverence to the spiritual world. Islamic calligraphy is not only acclaimed by the Muslim world, it is also considered a great artistic mode of visual expression.

Ramadan calls for a treat for these intricately artistic works, as the demand for calligraphic portrayals increases in the holy month. To serve the purpose for admirers of this genre of artistry, the ArtKaam Gallery compiled some exquisite calligraphic creations of various artists to curate a special Ramadan Calligraphic Exhibition. The artists participating in the online exhibtion were Akram Spaul, Anwar Shaikh, GN Qazi, Hamed Azeemi, Javed Qamar, M Siddiqui, Masooma Rizvi, Musarrat Arif, Nadeem Sabri, Riaz Rafi, Shahid Rana and Zohaib Rind. The maestro Sadequain's aesthetic manuscripts were also among the displayed collection of the above mentioned artists.

I got in touch with the management of the gallery, who were responsible to organise online exhibitions as per the demand of the ongoing lockdown situation and restrictions on large gatherings, to share some insight on how they are conducting this series of online displays. I asked Ali, a representative from the gallery what format are they following to execute digital displays? "Online exhibition format for both the galleries (ArtKaam and ArtOne62) is almost the same. We compile an E-catalogue containing all the details of the artworks and artists lined-up for an online display," he tells me. I then asked him to explain the initial process of organising these on digital platforms, to which he responded, "We first select a particular theme, the artists and the artworks. Then, we compile an E-catalogue with all the required necessary details. The E-catalogue is then shared to the participating artists, to share on their social media handles i.e. (Instagaram, Facebook, Twitter etc). And, it is also shared on the gallery's social media platforms. Lastly, we email the campaign sent to the customer via a Whatsapp message with the link of the catalogue and that is shared with the art enthusiasts on our mailing list as well."

The concept of online art shows is not so common in Pakistan and I imagine it must have been difficult for the management to curate one exclusively online. "Curating online shows is a difficult task indeed. You have to simultaneously connect with the art lovers through emails, social media and the website as well. Getting the word across to the art circle and the buyers is an art itself." I think juggling with a concept so new, the response would also be far different from walk-in exhibitions. Social interaction and the physical experience completely eliminated from this opportunity, it has no bonding or socialising opportunity and not to mention, an exhibition in itself is an experiential process. "In these times, the response is quite lacking actually. Art is a luxury and due to the current medical emergency going on because of Covid-19, buyers have stopped investing in art collecting and there are very limited buyers at present."

If we talk about this particular online exhibition, there were several artists who took part in it. "Curating a group show is a fun activity but also difficult at the same time. We have to connect with several artists, and constantly keep reminding them the last date of submissions, etc is hectic." But with the digital world and its glitches and the constant need to stay connected with a team is a task, especially considering the internet penetration and allocation of resources. How does a gallery that had to move its very nature to a different medium as a response to an emergent call deal with glitches? "Online exhibitions are not really considered as proper exhibitions here in Pakistan. We really have to pursue the artists and buyers both. The impact of a physical exhibition is a far different feeling and people mostly love to experience exhibitions in person. Take it and enjoy the environment, the art in particular and engage in dialogue with other visitors or the artist. Artworks can be seen with their true colours and felt, physically. An art lover wants to see the framed artwork."

Scrolling through the E-catalogues, one can never understand the hard work that the management of any art gallery is doing to stay afloat, to bring this art form to people who are enjoying it from the comfort of their homes. Talking about the paintings included in this exhibition, they were beautifully finishedwith genius strokes and a plethora of beaming colours that were a sight for sore eyes. •