July Issue 2013
Pushing the Envelope
An eclectic mix of paintings, sculptures and photographs have taken over the VM Art Gallery. This is no ordinary, run-of-the-mill art display, but the work of talented, young art students from colleges across Pakistan. The students — 76 in total — have displayed their thesis projects at the 11th Emerging Talent exhibition and it is refreshing to see them push the boundaries of artistic and creative expression.
The staggering amount of students participating as well as the sheer number of artworks housed by the gallery is remarkable. “The exhibition gives us budding artists a platform for showcasing our work; this is the best exposure a young artist can ask for,” says Anum Jamal, a recent graduate of the Indus
Valley School of Art and Architecture (IVS) who has two of her graphite on paper sketches on display.
The exhibition also allows art critics to gauge the standards prevailing in various art institutions. Although the majority of artworks are from reputable universities in Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad/Rawalpindi, it is encouraging to see the names of some lesser known schools from Bahawalpur, Gujrat, Hyderabad, Multan, Peshawar and Quetta as well. While all the work on display is creative, there are some artworks that stand out in terms of uniqueness.
In ‘Child Abuse,’ artist Shazia Khatoon from the Karachi School of Art uses glue and screws of various sizes to create a human foot. A small ladder placed next to the foot shows a metal figurine busy engaged in construction work, while another figure lies on the ground with a painful expression. The work is a stark reminder of the harsh consequences of treating human beings as machines.
Eema Alvi, another student from IVS, presents ‘Do You Really Want To Know?’ in which a miniature newspaper with tiny, indecipherable text is encased inside a wooden box. A magnifying glass is attached to it and the piece encourages onlookers to closely examine the text, which asks the reader: “Do you really want to know what happened today?” It seems violence is on everyone’s minds, much as we would like to close our eyes to it.
While many of the works have a similar social or political undercurrent to them, it is refreshing to see works that are humorous as well. For example, Karachi University graduate Amna Afzal’s ‘Esc’ is simply an engagement ring box with the ‘Esc’ button from a keyboard resting in place of a diamond. And Karachi School of Art’s Fariha Muhammad’s ‘A Dozen Expressions’ showcased 12 eggs with human faces skillfully painted on them.
The work of students from the National College of Arts, Lahore and Rawalpindi is also impressive. Malghalara Kalim from NCA Rawalpindi has two of her x-ray style, negative prints on display, titled ‘Yellow Light Box’ and ‘Cotton Candy.’ The former is a particularly eye-catching, bright yellow print with a red diversion sign pointing upwards, whereas the latter shows a girl in the process of eating neon-coloured sweets. The use of traffic signs and symbols is perhaps the artist’s way of showing how one follows the directions enforced by others — even when it comes to enjoying the simple pleasures of life.
And from the smaller cities, Muhammad Habib Akram from the University of Gujrat shows depth and skill with his untitled, abstract piece of what could be viewed as a waterfall or human lungs. The pristine, blue water body on the surface offers a stark contrast to a heap of charcoal filth resting at the bottom of the painting. Akram is interested in exploring human nature and the difference between outer appearance and inner depths, or what he calls, “the mysterious activity at work,” through abstract imagery.
All credit goes to the VM Art Gallery and curator Riffat Alvi, for encouraging and giving fresh graduates a platform for showcasing their works before a mainstream audience.
The writer is a journalist and former assistant editor at Newsline.