March issue 2011

By | Art | Arts & Culture | Published 13 years ago

I still remember my first day at the sculpture studio in the foundation year of NCA (National College of Arts). We were all huddled around the table where Mrs Dabir stood talking about sculpting a form out of clay. She talked about moulding and how clay is a complex medium — it records the path it has travelled. Madam Talat, as we would come to call her, had a certain innate ease with which she could mould clay into whatever form she decided.

Later, during our student years we went to see her art work at different galleries. Birds and sometimes human forms have been the repeated elements of her visual vocabulary. But equally, Mrs Dabir uses old architectural patterns in her work.

Having spent so much time near purani Anarkali, she has completely absorbed and perfected the heritage architectural forms of old Lahore. And among others, the jharoka, manifest often in her work, reflects how she has imbibed her surroundings, living in Lahore and having learnt and taught at the NCA for 35 years.

The current body of work on display at Art Scene in Karachi has a different, more personal narrative to it. In this rather large body of work entitled “Iss matti key loag,” Talat Dabir speaks, as the title suggests, of humanity and the transience of life. Clay as a medium attracts artists who are soulful, down to earth and spiritual in nature. She finds her inspiration from mystics and this time around her work is even beyond eloquent. Over the years she has developed the relief form to reach a point where each and every piece gives the viewer something to reflect upon. It serves as the earthy link to the inner workings of the human conscience.

My favourite piece in this show was called ‘Reading between the lines’ where human beings seemed to be pouring out through the edges of the binds of a pile of books. Another one titled ‘A face in the crowd’ illustrates the innate human desire to stand out even while talking about the common plane on which we all exist or the feeling of being a speck on the face of this earth. The piece called ‘Crumbling beauty’ is replete with meaning. It is glazed in a strategic manner to enhance the haunting message of how real beauty is being replaced by fake beauty.

Having suffered a fracture recently, the sculptor seems, in recent months, to have increasingly connected to the painful side of being human. And in this state of being and creating, her voice touches hearts at many levels, even more so perhaps as clay as a medium has so many layers. This is a beautiful, soulful body of work and should not be missed by any of “iss matti key loag,” art buffs or otherwise.