July issue 2016

By | Newsliners | Published 3 years ago

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Left to right: Ambassador Farukh Amil, artist/curator Alia Bilgrami; artists Amna Hashmi, Sheherbano Husain and Seyhr Qayum; chief guest Tsurutaro Kataoka, artists Jibran Shahid, Imran Hunzai and artist/curator Ilona Yusuf

A to Nexus (Art Nexus), an artists’ residency in Tokyo held from May 23 to June 6, created space and time for artists who had hitherto not taken part in an International Residency. Without a formal budget, there was still a need to keep showcasing the contemporary talent and heritage of Pakistan, best expressed by the nation’s artists. Curators Ilona Yusuf and Alia Bilgrami joined Ambassador Farukh Amil in Tokyo to launch a group show, with out-of-the-box thinking making up for limited resources.

 

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Jibran Shahid: Self-portrait.

A two-week enterprise in one of the world’s most expensive cities was a daunting task but budget constraints did not hamper the task at hand. Instead, full accommodation was provided at the Ambassador’s residence, with the Embassy’s spacious hall providing a perfect workplace for the Residency and eventual exhibition.

The Residency grew in size and scope through this collaborative effort. The concept that artists spend time in the cacophony and tranquillity of Tokyo and then create a fusion of Japan-inspired work was an idea that thrilled the Japanese. It brought two friendly countries together on a fresh, new platform.

The group of emerging to established artists referenced their experiences in different ways, from using traditional materials such as Sumi-e ink and brush techniques, marbled washi, and paper collage and sculpture; drawing on elements of Japanese culture such as Kabuki theatre or the pulse of the city in painting or installation works; and incorporating manga and anime into book-works.

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Imran Hunzai: Washi paper installation.

The exhibition, which included the group of seven artists who attended the residency as well as the work of three artists in absentia (Qadir Jhatial, Saima Ali and Malika Abbas) and Japan-based Farooq Mustafa, drew immense interest from a wide section of society — the Japanese art community, diplomats, officials, the media, politicians and celebrities such as Japanese sports’ icon Antonio Inoki and the chief guest, renowned actor and artist Tsurotaro Kataoka.

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Alia Bilgrami: Miniature on washi.

Japan is a culture of art and design. This is the first time that modern Pakistani art was presented in Japan in this manner, blew away many misconceptions. The Residency did not just create bridges through art, it delivered an important message about the spirit of Pakistan, and proved that our creative community is equally talented. It is hoped that the exhibition will develop to feature a full body of work reflecting the artists’ experiences, to be held soon in Pakistan with the cooperation of the Japanese Embassy in Islamabad and Consulate in Karachi.