KARACHI: “Who has the time or money for art these days?” I mumbled to myself as I made my way upstairs in a slightly dingy building where Art Chowk gallery was displaying the works of artists Shireen Ikramullah Khan and Scharjeel Sarfaraz.
As I opened the door to the gallery, it seemed the audience was scattered around one end of the room, almost as if they had picked sides. Quite ironically, the pieces on that end looked far more dark and disturbing than the others, where bright colours took precedence. As my eyes scanned the pieces from afar, the organiser, Bushra Hussain, quickly filled me in on who the artists were.
The 15 pieces which appeared to be darker and gloomier, with an equally captivating and intriguing appeal were attributed to Sarfaraz, while the five pieces which were more vibrant belonged to Khan. Just like the audience’s gravitational path, my eyes too were magnetised towards Sarfaraz’s pieces. Most of his paintings were tagged with a little blue block on the side, indicating that they had already been sold.
As if on cue, Sarfaraz walked towards me and introduced himself. Tall and thin, with black rimmed glasses — he looked every bit the quintessential creative genius who could create those magical pieces. He called his series, “the relationship between what is real, transcendental and metaphysical”. From my experience, I’d call it a vivid journey through anguish, self discovery and finally, hope.
The most visually striking piece was the one which was displayed first. The innocent, piercing gaze of “The Little Monk” loudly stated what the artist didn’t even need to explain. It represented the inner child within all of us, the one that is confused, angry, afraid and simple. Sarfaraz had aptly brought it to life in his work and staring at it was like looking at ones self in the mirror.
Men on his canvas appear tortured, in a state of influx or self-reflection. This is most obvious in his “At The Edge I-IV” where a naked, bloodied man sits with his face tucked between his legs. His anguish is apparent. Yet, a touch of gold on the border of the painting shows that godliness still exists and a higher power and love await him.
This is the beauty of his work — despite how terribly sinister his pieces may appear, Sarfaraz has a magnificent way of offsetting it all by using lighter shades. It seems “hope” creeps up when you least expect it.
On the other hand, NCA alumni Khan’s work with all its reds, blue and oranges reverberated with vibrancy and a unique strangeness. The Islamabad-based artists wasn’t there to share her inspiration, but her pieces lay bare for all to interpret and inspect.
The exhibition continues from 5-8 pm at the Art Chowk from July 11 till July 25.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 16th, 2012.
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