Art Review: Nahid Raza
In a world driven by ambition and greed, there are people who have discovered ways to achieve peace. Among them is the eminent artist, Nahid Raza, whose exhibition titled Virdh, comprising 15 acrylic-on-canvas paintings, was held recently at the Canvas Gallery, Karachi. Raza started to imbibe the concept of Sufism or Tasawwuf, i.e. submitting oneself to the restructuring of the heart by steering away from everything, except the Almighty Allah. This changed her life, and Nahid decided to give a new direction to her painting.
Acclaimed for her figurative works on feminist issues, Raza’s new repertoire marks an exciting departure from her earlier works. The mystical momentum that gathers when one moves around the gallery is a revelation of the artist’s innate penchant to make inroads to peace.
Being a strong believer in divine realities, Raza says, “I have emphasised that there is spirituality in every person,” and adds, “I do a lot of virdh (recitation) on the tasbih, and one day I realised that I should express the feelings that virdh creates in my soul through painting.”
The artist has painted tabulated forms of ‘alif,’ the first alphabet of Allah’s name, in each of the floating or docked squares, to denote the repeated intonations of virdh. Her canvases exude peace and tranquility, a harvest of her mystic excursions through the exclusive portal of Sufism. It is her transcendent propensity that shows her the way to experience the manifestation of the Divine, and reproduce it in colours for others to see and feel.
In her painting ‘Virdh-1,’ she resorts to adding tumbling blocks descending from the heavens, as if forming an assemblage that emulates a formidable wall of protection. The rhythmic descent of geometrical forms ostensibly syncs with the spoken word, merging with the meditative demeanour of the devotee. The judiciously punctuated gold and silver patches impart a feeling of recurrent fulfilment and serenity bestowed by the Almighty. The motif of a patterned lotus, screen-printed in golden yellow, binds together the stacked blocks that represent mercy, forgiveness, and redemption.
Pushing her acumen to the threshold, Raza digresses steeply in her composition ‘Virdh-12,’ which is a deviation from her usual linear connotations of soulful chants. This particular canvas portrays two concentric circles and she elaborates, “The entire firmament is based on spherical forms such as the sun and the moon, which is Allah’s representation. I have, therefore, embedded the name of Allah in a circular format.” The calculated use of motifs, fading in and out of the background, charge the painting’s atmosphere with a mystical ambience.
The exhibition’s strong point is the showcasing of inventive and unrestrained works that are spiritually absorbing. n