June issue 2009
Of Oranges, Lemons and Magic Shoes
Diverging from the abstract struggles and idiosyncrasies that artists feel compelled to explore, two recent exhibitions illustrated the pleasant childhood reminiscences of two artists in two varying perspectives.
Samina Raza, student of Iqbal Hussain and Nayyar Jamil, and an exceptionally gifted artist, has painted and exhibited for over 20 years. Raza’s most recent work, titled green blue pink orange, was on display at Galleria 919. Animated and swathed in warm hues, her paintings are reminiscent of Raza’s illustrations for children’s books. Fizza Saleem, a relatively new entrant who exhibited her work at the Alliance Francaise, delves into her childhood fantasies through the Wizard of Oz theme of the ruby red shoes, evoking memories of fairytales and magic shoes.
Raza’s paintings reflect the positive attitude with which she works, rejecting the stance of an “anguished painter.” She simply loves to paint and does so with a joy that is visibly reflected in her work. Her depictions of images recalled from her childhood seem to be heavily influenced by Matisse. As a student, Raza was intrigued by European artists and followed in their footsteps. Also close to her heart besides Matisse are the works of Van Gogh and Picasso, especially Picasso’s circus series. Using watercolours, pastels, and pen and ink, she paints animals and birds, fruits such as oranges and eggplants, vegetables like lemons and quince, and flowers like hydrangeas, gloxinia and lilies which she was familiar with because of her parents’ love of gardening. Her pieces are montages of all these objects worked in great detail in some of the paintings, like ‘Australia Land,’ ‘Maajrah and Haajrah’ and ‘Dressing Room.’ One composition that stands out is a pen-and-ink sketch titled ‘We Waited in the Wings,’ which illustrates four performers standing in the wings, waiting for a performance to either begin or end. All four are connected by a moment in time.
Fizza Saleem’s work recreates the time she spent with her sister when they were both children. Her large canvases transport one into a world of fantasy, magic and innocence, where the skies are filled with a burst of sunlight, children glide on rollerblades and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang whizzes through the clouds. This collection appears to be a continuation of her previous show titled The Red Shoes, after a painting that was displayed in her last exhibit. Her fascination with red shoes began after she spotted a pair on a trip abroad and missed the chance to buy them. This time round, the red shoes feature as baby shoes sitting by a woman’s black pair of stilettos — a reflection of how the artist has grown up but keeps her childhood memories intact, or perhaps it is her way of connecting with her two-year-old daughter.
Saleem’s large canvases symbolise the unbridled imagination of children but they tend to lack detail; also the innovative style of her previous exhibition of sketches that immediately struck one’s fancy is missing. Raza’s work, on the other hand, is more contained, intricate and employs a personalised technique of the Impressionist masters she looks up to. She has brought to life vivid and engaging memories, in work which encourages a moment’s introspection.