As many as 20 ink prints are being produced by artists Muhammad Atif Khan and Damon Kowarsky at the printmaking department of the National College of Arts (NCA) with funding provided by the Australian High Commission in Islamabad for a travelling exhibition, Hybrid, that kicks of on November 20 at Rohtas Art Gallery in Lahore and then moves on to Karachi, Islamabad and then on to the United States and Australia.
Twenty copper plate etchings, printed on paper, combine traditional symbols of the subcontinent with historical architecture. One print bears the map of Lahore against a side portfolio view of a man sporting an earring in the right ear.
During the last ten months, the two artists exchanged emails. Khan sent scanned images of symbols of traditional miniature paintings, truck art, traditional pottery, geometric floor patterns, kabaadi players while Kowarsky added his drawings to modify the image. Most of Kowarsky’s drawings seen in these works are inspired by his previous visits to Pakistan and during his international travels, particularly New York City, in the last two years.
The two artists exchanged two drawings a month and have produced 23 in the last ten months. Twenty have been selected for the exhibition show they have decided to title Hybrid.
Kowarsky arrived in Lahore a month ago. In exchange for holding a talk with NCA students, Kowarsky and Atif were provided studio space on college premises. A little over two weeks ago, the artists started transferring the work, using an etching press, onto paper sheets. Fourteen copies of each piece will be made, 12 will be available for purchase. Kowarsky, known for his architectural drawings, said the work makes a hybrid statement about both of their styles. “It is barely abstract. It is more of a narration of cultural identity. Over the past ten months, we modified each other’s work, improving it by putting together suitable pieces.”
To a sketch of clouds, Khan has added an image of a maulvi’s scarf. “The scarf print seems like a water puddle, perfectly supplementing the drawing of a cloud,” Khan said.
The artists plan to finish the work by November 20. Drawings etched onto copper plates will be transferred into 280 digital prints. Atif using a photo emulsion recreated the images on the plate while Kowarsky etched his drawing onto the plate with acid after drawing it with a pencil. The work is now in its final stages.
On November 30, the pieces will travel for an exhibition at the Australian High Commission in Islamabad. The exhibit will also travel to Koel Art Gallery in Islamabad. Each piece is priced Rs24,000.
Khan told The Express Tribune that he was inspired to propose a collaboration with Kowarsky after seeing his collaborative work with two Japanese artists. Kowarsky agreed since he had also planned a visit to Pakistan in 2012. “I wanted to come for exhibiting my work in Islamabad and Lahore,” he said. His exhibition Overview had been on display in Islamabad last week and will be exhibited at Alhamra starting November 19. “It was perfect to collaborate to create unique art,” Kowarsky said.
It is Kowarsky’s fourth visit to Pakistan. He has taught at the Beaconhouse National University and the Indus Valley Art School. Hybrid will be his fourth exhibition in the country.
Atif graduated from the NCA in 1997. He taught at his alma mater until 1999.
He then left to pursue his career in Jordan and the United Kingdom. He returned in 2005 and resumed teaching at the NCA’s Printmaking department.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 18th, 2012.