KARACHI: An art exhibition, “Left Behind”, was held on Thursday at Koel Gallery, displaying the works of artists Alia Bilgrami, Momin Zafar and Nida Bangash. The exhibition, which runs till April 20, was based on the theme of loss, feelings of displacement and the impermanence of life.
Combining photography, miniature art and paintings in her work, Bilgrami illustrated the feelings of displacement she endured from her being born in Canada and having shuffled between the cities of Karachi and Islamabad. Trying to explain her work, Bilgrami said, “[I believe] the impermanence I feel is a consequence of my displacement.”
From a young age, she found symbols intriguing and felt an association with them. For instance, the tulip, which is used in some of her watercolour paintings, holds a certain significance for her. “The tulip is a symbol of love in the East but in the West, it is only about marketing the flower.” Her work reflects the dichotomy in the perspective about a flower which has changed overtime and this is most obvious in a painting which shows a tulip against a deconstructed building.
In another visual, Bilgrami constructs an image of a map with bricks. She feels that displacement is not about “the human form but of land and buildings too.”
Using digital photography, Zafar captured images of his maternal grandfather’s residence 51-A Ferozepur Road, Lahore. This was the place where Zafar spent an “idyllic childhood, a dream-like one” and it was a home where all of his family members felt connected to one another.
Explaining the history of the house, Zafar said, “The house was built in the 1930s by Hindus. My family moved in after Partition. We spent all our vacations there until my grandfather passed away in 1991. After that, an aunt and cousin lived in the house till 2010 and it was sold off later on.
The pictures were taken between April 2010 till December 2011 and Zafar took around 2,500 photos of the house during this period. Out of these, 400 were shortlisted for the exhibition and some were placed up on the walls for the event.
Regarding the theme “Left Behind” and its connection to his work, he said, “I don’t think anything that’s affected us can ever be left behind. We can release a conscious thought or emotion but the subconscious — and our very being — has recorded the link.”
Using ink, watercolour, graphite and layers of fixture, Bangash painted passport size images on Mylar paper. Regarding the work, she said, “These images are all out of my family albums. For instance, the passport size male and female portraits are from my mother and my father’s passports, school, college ID cards collected throughout their lifetime.”
Explaining the concept further, she said, “I wanted to capture the idea behind these posed photographs; especially the strong confessing gaze. I wanted to paint the portraits in a naturalistic manner but during the process, the portraits evolved into a series of age-less, gender-less and identity-less doll-like mannequins which adapt themselves in the photographs with the props and accessories attached to them.”
Regarding the theme, she said, “They are centred around the idea of loss, impermanence, erasure and human absence. Photographs appealed to me because of the fact that they never change, even though the scenario completely changes once the camera clicks.”
Published in The Express Tribune, April 10th, 2012.