July 25, 2024


Art Is Experience

Unseen Dimensions

It was a sunny, twenty-third day of December while the redbrick grandeur of the University College of Art & Design building was basking in the comfy sunshine. An ambiance full of romance and adoration was all inviting to all who could feel a stir in their hearts in this immaculate gaze the sun was casting.

The faculty members of UCAD were loitering around in the best of their wardrobe in wait for the Vice Chancellor who was to be the chief guest for inaugurating a unique show titled as ‘Dimensions’ displaying the creative lust of painters who happened to be the teachers of UCAD as well.

Artists need space to display their creations while all galleries provide proper walls to the paintings to be hanged. Ana Molka Gallery at University College of Art and Design did the same for an array of exclusively rendered work not by anyone else, but the faculty members of this prestigious institution.

It is always considered a great opportunity when the young lot of any tradition is provided with the prospect of being alongside the older one. This was an exclusive feature of that show where the mature hands were to hold the flair of young ones.

Entering Ana Molka Gallery has always been a matter of pride for me since my student days at the corridors of UCAD that now has become a nostalgic intoxication after being indulged in earning bread and butter. But as I entered the door, a strong whisper of deja vu was more than noticeable. Undoubtedly, it was a precisely curated show with all the display requirements given priority but what one could smell straight away, was the presence of frames against the milky walls of the Gallery, which, had adorned some other walls of different Galleries as well. And ironically, mostly by the mature and renowned artists, an attitude that could be a false rope to hold on for the younger and neophyte generation of artists.

But never the less, the work displayed was somehow had something to talk about.

The snowy rooftops painted in a very designed composition by Zafar Ullah who happened to be the principal of the UCAD was just synchronized with the freezing temperature of Lahore. Despite the fact that this frame was not new to the viewers even then, the geometrically conceived and coherently painted, mostly in zinc-white and rusty-browns, canvas was forcing every one to think that why the painter behind that freezing atmosphere could not put his new canvases on fire when all the fire is there within the little master?

While the surface of a canvas by Kehkeshan Jafery titled as ‘Simmering Woods’, was ruthlessly blazed with burning reds and yellows; a typical Kehkeshan painting with warm feel and depth, around and within the central part of the painting. There were strokes of blues and greens in some patches across the canvas but they were identical to the blue and green part of a flame.

These flames get wild in ‘Heaven of Another God’ by Maliha Azmi Agha who, for the last three or four years, has been obsessed with pure blues, reds, and yellows which by overlapping each other, seem to create secondary tones of green and orange. The energy and direction of strokes was giving the impression that the painter was trying to break all the shackles and canons that had been in practice for academic or institutional requirements. But the composition and the style of applied paints were satisfactorily poised with previous works of the vigorous painter.

Adjacent to all these blazing and burning frames, was hanging the soft, subtle, and flexible delicacy of Rahat Naveed’s pastels. If Renoir is known for his rosy skins of his nudes, Rahat is known for rose-like skins of her portraits. Although we have come across the new and abstract style of Rahat in recent exhibitions in town but with the glowing skin of female face in one frame composed purposely with a red rose and with the shine of a male face, rendered on a handmade paper, in another frame was something serene and peaceful, reminding the classic tenet of tranquility, especially in the western world.

It was a soft tone as far as female painters are concerned as a whole regarding their displayed work. Anila Zulfiqar with her Impressionistic cityscape reminded the times of late nineteenth century when French painters were trying to capture the changing light. Anila with her juxtaposed brush strokes and hazy ambiance tried to create the mist across which, the typical Lahore Bazar was stretched to the maximum depth.

Anila’s memory regarding cityscapes is snowed under the narrow streets, jharokas and tapered shades, and when she puts these elements in her unique style, especially when the fog of December clad them warmly, the canvas gets the depth at its central part; a feature which the young painter has developed recently.

But Sumera Jawad, contrary to the supple and feeble fashion of female painters, came up with her typical images of women that traveled through time. Sumera takes her female images from mythology and relates them to the contemporary female. In her displayed painting, she arranged some mythical elements vis-à-vis to goddesses while the concealed and unconcealed eyes from the background were staring the onlooker. As always, she put a modern image of contemporary female in the frontal part of the composition, which was more like a film actress of musical melodies of 1960s.

Miniatures are what Khalid Saeed Butt has mastery in and in this show; he emerged with a very lyrically poised female in the center of the frame with tree branches around. The softness of the curves of the twigs of a leafless tree was orchestrated with the curvature of the female figure, which was, in its rendering, more like the ‘Pahari’ school figures. Khalid crafted the rare part of the figure so precisely that the eye of viewer seemed absorbed within the dark area while when it journeyed along the half moon of the pelvic arch was an obvious display of the keen surveillance the artist was blessed with. The apple in the left hand of the female figure was suggestive to the well-known Biblical theme.

Tanvir Murshad is a renowned designer who loves to paint. In this show he put on show his vertical canvas with acrylic paints thrown across. The energy and the dynamism he produced from blue to yellow were symptomatic of his control over compositional requirements, which he got through geometrical vision.

But Amjad Pervez used his all proficiency regarding geometry and balance within his cityscape in watercolor. The typical ‘Darwaza’ of old Lahore was very well crafted. But the inert feeling was obvious apart from the skill that was screening the emptiness that a professional painter always can fill up.

The younger lot was marked with Ali Azmat, Mughees Riaz, Tasadduq Amin and Shehzad Majeed. Ali with his typical male nude was looking repetitive. Mughees presented his favorite Ravi Scene with boat while Tasadduq’s landscape with outsized foreground was all inspired by Zulqarnain Haider School of landscape. Shehzad Majeed’s experiment on ‘vasli’with meticulous pencil drawing was inspiring as far as skill could go. The composition and tonalities were exploited with precision.

No doubt, it was an excellent effort by UCAD. Only frequentative shows of this nature can answer the problems, seen between lines. There’s a hope and expectation that this show was just the beginning of a hale and hearty tradition.