July Issue 2013
Taking Art Forward
The Majmua Art Gallery in Karachi recently hosted an exhibition of artworks by 16 artists from across the country. Titled Let’s Vote Pakistan, the show celebrated works by emerging artists who often do not get the chance to exhibit their works at major galleries.
The gallery’s press release stated that the selected works explore the country’s social milieu and “the will to bring a change through the expression of electoral process.” But looking around at the traditional portraits or the marble top tables, the political aspect of the works was not evident. And since the artists are still young and honing their aesthetic and skills, many of the works had simple, traditional subjects or were done in the style of Pakistani masters.
Some were inspired by the tradition of miniature painting and Syed Irfan’s depiction of Mughal figures proved to be classical in both style and sensibility. Artist Rabia Dawood is also trained in miniature art but her works have a slightly more modern touch. One of her paintings depicts a young girl staring into the distance, with a broken filigree of flowers framing her figure. In another, Dawood has painted a sepia-toned image of Fatima Jinnah. The two presented some of the more promising work at the exhibition and perhaps with more experience, they will be able to find the balance between tradition and originality.
Although not in the miniature art style, Fariah’s works also seem to be grounded in tradition. Her black and white delicate motifs seem to be inspired by local tiles and while the works are not exactly novel or exciting, these paintings could later go on to become the foundation of more ambitious projects.
Other artists at the exhibition, such as Shumaila, showcased realistic portraits of people but her subject matter and overall style is quite commonplace. In fact, the exhibition could be confused for an art show at a school and while such works may not ever make an appearance in other galleries in the city, it is still important that these artists from smaller cities and towns be encouraged and given the space to show their works. Gallery owner Mehreen Ilahi has plans to take this show to Washington and New York, which will hopefully encourage the artists to hone their skills and take more artistic risks.
Zehra Nabi is a graduate student in The Writing Seminars at the Johns Hopkins University. She previously worked at Newsline and The Express Tribune.