June Issue 2010

By | Art | Arts & Culture | Published 14 years ago

The motivation behind creating art has evolved and changed over centuries. Art practice has adapted to fit the needs of the time and provide a vehicle for individual self-expression and social commentary. Artists exercise their freedom of expression in their art, which is really a manifestation of their interpretation and outlook of the world around them.

Based in America, Simeen Farhat has brought her solo exhibition titled Vitalized Verses to the VM Gallery in Karachi. The show’s curator, Niilofur Farukh, has long been a proponent of activism and projection of women’s issues through art, and has been following Farhat’s work and its dynamic progression over the past few years. She felt that this would be a very opportune time to bring Farhat’s work to Pakistan, for it deals with some of the core issues faced by our society. The meaning and reactions it evokes at this time and place are far more palpable than would be the case in any other setting.

The work comprises installation art in black and white with crimson accents that make a dramatic and powerful impact on the viewer. One gasps at the sight of silhouettes skilfully crafted out of soft white fabric strategically positioned with wooden verses spilling out of the forms. These timeless draped figures, Farhat explains, are not intended to disparage women who veil themselves, but rather to represent the female form. Some works, on the other hand, are purely text, based on verses of poets like Ghalib and Faiz Ahmed Faiz, celebrating the genius of their expression and the inspiration of their ideas.

The artist sets up a dialogue about women in our society and the need to review the mindset that is taking shape around us. As an expatriate, Farhat finds that her homeland is much changed post incidents like 9/11 and Lal Masjid. She feels alarmed that under the guise of Islamisation, much of our cultural heritage is being lost. She argues that influences that were once an integral part of our collective values and traditions as Pakistanis have been deemed incompatible and irrelevant in the society this country has morphed itself into and sidelined or supplanted with conservatism.

Farhat asserts that religion in our region is being exploited for reasons that are completely removed from faith. She also laments the act of adopting other cultures and foregoing our roots is becoming an increasingly popular coping mechanism for our people who are dealing with the dissonance in every sphere of life.

She highlights women and their role in their surroundings and prods women to speak up and express themselves. She urges all women, educated and uneducated, rich or poor, to never lose sight of the fact that their mind is free to think and their soul is free to experience.

Moreover, beyond women’s issues, the artist attempts to spark a discourse about the whole system around us. Our vision as a people is in question. It is a great cause for concern that most Pakistanis either feel removed from what is going on in the country, or see the socio-political problems as so larger-than-life and deep-seated, that they feel powerless to shape it. Farhat’s Vitalized Verses allude to the missing mission statement our country so desperately needs. The harder and more uncertain times get, the proportionately greater the possibility for change and revolution. Perhaps this is why art in our region has also become increasingly daring and eloquent in these turbulent times.

This solo show, a first by the artist in the country, is a commendable call to arms for citizens — and women in particular — to empower themselves and take their place in rebuilding our nation.

Click on any photo to begin the slide show.