Artistic diversions: Exploring the encroachment of space

Published: September 24, 2012

Exhibition at Drawing Room covers growing security infrastructure, deterioration of historical sites

Exhibition at Drawing Room covers growing security infrastructure, 
deterioration of historical sites Exhibition at Drawing Room covers growing security infrastructure, 
deterioration of historical sites

“We are being watched,” is a 4 inch by 6 inch miniature featuring Ranjit Singh’s Haveli. Set against a sprinkled gold leaf backdrop, the haveli is seen covered in banners of political parties such as the PPP, the PML-N and the PTI.

“It shows the government’s neglect in preserving historical remnants,” said Tahir Ali Sadiq, who graduated from National College of Arts in 2012.“All my work makes a statement about the deteriorating historical structures of Lahore,” said Sadiq.

Sadiq had also showcased a view of Nisar Haveli, demolished in Lahore’s Walled City a long time ago. Another piece featured multiple perspectives of Badshahi Mosque, a technique using a bird and a human view of an object.

Three of Sadiq’s pieces sold within an hour of opening of the exhibition at the Drawing Room Gallery.

Sadiq, a resident of Nisbat Road opposite Gowalmandi, had diligently photographed historic buildings in the Walled City as a child. His final year thesis at the NCA in May brought to the fore centuries-old buildings that do not exist anymore. “Most of the buildings I painted are from pictures my uncle took before 1995 or I took in early 2000s,” Tahir said.

The exhibition titled ‘Diversion,’ features the work of five NCA-trained artists. The works highlight the damage to space done by security installations, the politicisation of buildings and lack of building law regulations. It will run till September 28.

Normalising war

Five miniature paintings by Beenish Usman place security installations against sublime landscapes.

One of her works connects a white and red canopy, used by soldiers for refuge, to a canvas partition; which lead into a yellow-and-black brick barrier which culminates in contemporary military tents.

“Earlier, the presence of military camps on a landscape indicated that war had broken out. We are now used to ever present military and police check posts,” said Usman. “I am trying to portray how urban and rural landscapes are now visibly disturbed.”

One of her pieces features a playground ride. “Children were barred from going to parks in the wake of the plummeting socio-political situation in 2010. This makes a statement about it,” said Usman.“I have not titled my work so there is no restriction on how the viewer interprets it,” said Usman, who graduated in 2010. She has showcased her work before in Tokyo, at Khaas Gallery in Islamabad and Rohtas in Lahore.

Personal demons

Four works by Umme Amaria, 23, portray the theme of personal disturbance.

‘Can’t sway me,’ shows the ground flooded with demons beneath a bed post. “It is my attempt at breaking away from norms, of restrained communication and being cautious,” she said.

Amaria sold three of her four paintings during the exhibit’s opening. Saeeda Nawaz, a 2012 NCA graduate, has painted foliage.

“At this stage in life, one develops a communication gap. This is an abstract attempt at filling this gap,” she said.

“Even as children, we think one can fill up natural spaces such as walls is easier by planting ivy,” she said.

Sharp-ended branches in two paintings show the distance developed with relatives, family and friends while two other foliage drawings signal the cure, she said.

Maha Ahmad presented three pieces exploring “ambiguity of spaces.” One of her pieces showcased a combination of hills and the ocean carrying a bird-fish hybrid. Another painting depicted a black and white grid. “We are always taught as miniaturists to be perfect with our line skills. But no matter how hard one tries, there is always some imperfection,” she said.

The paintings were priced between Rs20,000 and Rs100,000 and will stay on display till September 28.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 24th, 2012.

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