KARACHI: The simplicity of Masood A Khan’s work draws one in.
“When I look at this painting [Ehsas-e-wajood], I am amazed at how the artist has managed to capture more than 80 per cent of the masses in a single frame,” said Aliya Asim Arshad about Khan’s Dekhi Andekhi series on display at the Koel gallery. “He has managed to depict what is going on in the country really well. In his piece called Mr Dajjal he has shown a snake in a suit sitting in a position of power. There is fruit and comfort around him showing that he is living the life while others around him are working hard and trying to survive.”
Arshad said that there was one painting that she couldn’t understand, titled Dosti. “There is fruit on the table which I think shows that the children in this painting were born to privilege but they look so sad. Look at their faces, there is no sparkle in their eyes – nothing. I think this shows what has happened to our society. We are all very depressed and unhappy with how things are being done.”
In his new collection, Khan – who recently won the first prize at Italy’s Biennale of Chianciano, an international art festival – has worked primarily with ink, charcoal, acrylic and silk paint on wasli. The concept he had in mind while working on the series was transparency. He has worked with the theme in a way that makes the audience feel like they are prying into the lives of others. The 22 paintings that lined the walls of the gallery were telling a story. There are small elements which gave his work a personal touch. In Sirf Ma, Khan has shown a woman and her child sleeping on a charpoy. Another depicts sisters picking lice from each other’s hair.
In the artist’s statement, Khan says that transparency is the quintessence of naked reality; it remains constant on my surfaces. “From the remote recess of my subconscious I create a spiritual climate that touches the heart,” he said. “I create a spiritual climate that touches the heart. I feel a new liberty when the beauty of every form is clear, visible and not overlapping each other. It creates a multidimensional view. I have peeled off layer by layer the fables that determine our lives.”
According to an attendee at the exhibition, Khan’s work spoke volumes. “I love the colours and the composition of his work. He has said so much in such a subtle way,” he said. “In this painting [Mr Dajjal] he has created something original. This is original work and that is why it is beautiful.”
For Noorjehan Bilgrami, textile designer, artist and the brains behind Koel, Khan was like a breath of fresh air. “I like his work. It is not affected, it is simple with no pretence,” she said while talking to The Express Tribune on Thursday. “There is lightness in his work and he really was able to show ‘transparency’.” One her favourite pieces in the collection was Khan’s Itwar ki Subha, which shows a boy looking into a family’s courtyard. “This one in particular looks like a Japanese print,” she said. “Look at this one [she said pointing towards Barish-k-baad]. It is not just about two people standing under an umbrella. They could be sharing this moment anywhere. Khan has gone into details which are amazing. He has focused on crows sitting on the wires and one of them falling down, the green doors and windows… he has used multiple approaches and layers.”
The show is set to go on till September 29.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 21st, 2012.