Atif Khan’s Love Songs

  • 01 Aug - 07 Aug, 2020
  • Eman Saleem
  • Art

How comforting is nostalgia – the gush of warmth inside you, the slow curling of the corner of your lips and mental slideshow of memories – amplified with a visual burst of colours and characters, familiar and unfamiliar, is an experience that tugs at the heartstrings with a sweet intensity. My apologies, this is what art and stories do to me, they work like a force that’s trying to make a poet out of me. Anyone would be overtaken by sweet nostalgia with Atif Khan’s latest exhibition at Sanat Initiative. Titled Love Songs, his collection explores different themes based on stories of our iconic pop music albums of the 90s – with a hint of romance, the trance of folk and the surge of patriotism.

The story of when an artist meets his art is always interesting. Growing with a flair for drawing in the backdrop of Sahiwal, Khan didn’t know there was academic or professional recognition attached to fine arts. It was by happenstance that the knowledge of NCA and further education in arts found him. A friend’s sister was due to start at the prestigious NCA and that was his first introduction with the institute. “Mere kaan kharay hogaye when I got to know this could be a professional degree to study,” says Khan, who is an NCA graduate with distinction and is now affiliated with the institute as an Assistant Professor for over 15 years.

Khan expresses his disinterest in studying, because a system based of memorising didn’t intrigue him. Merely focused on passing, he set out to Karachi from his hometown to study at Karachi School of Art. Looking back, he says, “flipping through old practical notebooks with diagrams I saw how impressive my drawings were, I realised I always had a penchant for arts.”

His current collection transpired over a period of time, with elements borrowed from the musical heritage dating back to the 90s. While it is a collection, the UNESCO-Ashberg Bursary winner says that all of these pieces are unique in their individuality and can standalone and speak for themselves. Very much like an artist and his own identity. Speaking to me about he thinks is integral to the work of an artist, Khan says encompassing your surroundings, culture and the noise around your practice is what helps an artist build his unique identity and establish a footing in the broader international scenario.

I ask him about Pakistan and its growth in the field of arts, and Khan shares some insight looking through the lens of the past. “When I passed out in the 90s, I don’t think there was any art scene. There were only a few people who were working independently. Most NCA graduates would go towards designing. There was a very small art market, and a few people working independently doesn’t make an art market. Even as a student, I felt that fine art students weren’t treated as professionals, but more interest-based admissions or serving a hobby,” the solo exhibitionist says. The boom of private channels brought awareness and fashioned public interest in art. Nearly two decades later, he’s seen a rapid growth in galleries in big cities across the country and a thriving art scene that has also made art collectors out of enthusiasts.

Like all creatives, artists also find themselves at a blockade and I wondered how Khan copes with it. With a solution-oriented outlook of life, Khan says,“when there is a block, other opportunities open up but you have to look for them vigilantly, you will find a way. ”The artist, when he had to move back to his hometown was faced with lack of print making facilities and it was then that he discovered stamping and boundlessly experimented with it.