April issue 2012

By | Art | Arts & Culture | Published 12 years ago

Hearts and grenades, fighter planes and flies — these are the recurring images in Imran Mudassar’s solo show Self-Portrait, which was held at Canvas Gallery on March 20. A graduate of the National College of Arts where he specialised in printmaking, Mudassar once considered joining the army and was only deterred after he saw the realities — and brutalities — of war up close when he visited Kabul.

In his artist’s statement, Mudassar wrote that he tries to create “a dialogue between (his) body and war-related objects,” and his canvases are replete with war imagery — both historical and contemporary, local and foreign. In ‘You and Me 1,’ two figures, standing back to back, are rendered delicately in pencil on a looming, white canvas. Medieval helmets are superimposed over their faces and a glowing, red silhouette of a heart is placed between the two torsos. In ‘You and Me 2,’ two knights stand facing each other, rendered in shades slightly darker than the charcoal gray backdrop, and it is only upon close inspection that the carefully drawn details of the armour become visible. In both paintings the figures, barely visible against the background, have a phantom-like presence. Not only is there symmetry and repetition within each painting but also across the collection on display.

For instance, the decorative quality of the armour echoes in the ‘You, Me & My Love’ triptych — a series of three large black and white canvases on which Mudassar draws ornate patterns similar to those found on the covers of religious books. And in the diptych ‘Secret Love,’ one half shows a black grenade placed inside the shadowy silhouette of a heart and in the other, the images are reversed with a black heart placed inside a larger silhouette of a grenade.

Mudassar’s work is self-restrained and focused. The collection is predominantly in black and white and his primary medium is the humble pencil. His work is quiet. The images rendered on the large, floor-to-ceiling canvases are barely visible and the delicate line drawings are unexpected, considering that the work comments on war, violence and destruction. The only time he strays from this style is in the ‘One of Three’ series. Here Mudassar takes photographs of bullet-ridden walls and draws headless torsos around them, giving the impression that the bullet holes are penetrating the body. He also adds graffiti over the figures and the sudden introduction of colour as well as the more explicitly graphic imagery makes these three works stand out in the collection. However, Mudassar’s strength is taking the violence and destruction that drives his art to make paintings that are unexpectedly subdued and reflective.

This article was originally published in the April 2012 issue of Newsline under the headline “In Black and White.”

Zehra Nabi is a graduate student in The Writing Seminars at the Johns Hopkins University. She previously worked at Newsline and The Express Tribune.