Exhibition: Four women and a world with a view

NCA alumni use babies, cupboards and Victorian gowns to explore the world.

Express June 15, 2011


Artists just love to hack away at that rock that is worldliness, self-perception, and desire. However, there are a few that manage to bring something new to the table. National College of Arts graduates Naireen Zia, Silwat Mumtaz, Saima Beenish and Beenish Khalid have put up their work, ‘A world with a view’ at Koel Gallery till June 20. They managed to come up with some interesting takes on the concepts.

Naireen Zia’s gouache-on-wasli (archival paper) paintings placed strategically in a cupboard were well received. The work “dissects the idea of ownership, privacy and its implementation.”

Her cupboard is all about the importance of things that we assume will remain forever. In “realising the recent permanence of supposedly ‘temporary’ structures”, you begin to identify an area as a ‘place’ rather than a ‘space’ only when something is kept there. Inanimate objects take on character. “The absent becomes more present,” she says. “Architecture assumes human presence and narrates even in the absence of it.”

Miniature artists in Karachi have been throwing their backs into moving away from the norm. Silwat Mumtaz also tried to “take miniature out of its traditional context by putting it in a wider global contemporary context.” The artist says that she is trying to find herself in imaginary and introspective compositions that centre around growing up in a society bound by tradition. Her gouache-on-wasli piece, ‘Deja vu’, was the priciest painting at Rs34,000.

“Ever since I started drawing, portraits have been my passion,” says Saima Beenish. She feels that she has been blessed with an “incredibly beautiful gift” - every piece that she creates allows her to “express beauty and desire”. Indeed, her talent shines through in her work that manages to portray both the likeness and the character of the sitter. “I meld the physical and perceived characteristics in my compositions. My entire body of work has been an example of how a traditional technique of miniature painting can be incorporated into contemporary imagery.”

She experiments with mediums, patterns, and composition, going from detailed miniatures to abstract pieces. She likes to be more than just a portraitist, going beyond the surface and using her perception to play with the surface and texture to create a third dimension. “Each element in my painting must be in perfect harmony with the overall composition while creating a link with the portraiture.”

Delving deeper into the origins of portraits, Beenish also addresses vanity and self-perception in her work. “Self image is now a pictorial identity that one can carry around in one’s pocket and is a right of passage to the world,” she observes. “But society does in fact prefer imagery, no matter how much it deviates from the truth.”

Beenish Khalid’s almost disturbing use of infants in her compositions forces the observer into contemplation. “The body of work orbits present-day scenarios,” she says. “It exudes the never-ending pressure besieging us - painfully tying us down in the cage of helplessness, impelling us to chalk out our acts fitting in with their agenda; hosing down the hopes of breaking free from the clutches of the confined limits of our own mind.”

The pieces are meant to push old concepts lodged in the brain out of position. It “reflects the bi-polarity embedded in a human mind, where pressure forces one to helplessness and the freedom, when granted, is restricted by the cubical boundaries which surround our thought process.”

Khalid tries to depict the self-contradictory nature of a society being held back by its thought process. Her work discusses discontent and lust and how the process of achieving ones desires works.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 16th, 2011.


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