Blurring the lines: Artists explore censorship and isolation in plain black and white

One artist’s idea of freedom is haphazard criss-crossed lines that could be anything.


Express September 22, 2011

KARACHI: It looked like a solitary confinement cell with tight and angry lines violently covering the walls at the gallery. A prisoner could have dragged his fingernails over a wall.

The front half of the gallery at Koel was dedicated to Arif Hussain Khokhar’s ‘Within Without’ series that opened on Thursday. Khokhar, who is a National College of Arts graduate, has based his work on the theme of isolation brought to life with charcoal on black and white paper.

In his statement, Khokhar explains that his work deals with drawing something that reminds him of a simplistic sketch book and inspires him at the same time. He feels his work reflects the solitude around him.

And indeed, this is the effect achieved by the series of lines criss-crossing each other to form thick plaits of confusion. The black lines obscuring the white paper suffocate, almost like a solitary confinement cell. However, the artist points out that the empty spaces can be seen to represent “tiny negative spaces” and the lines can represent endless possibilities.

“Lines make you see the drawing, the drawing makes you think you can find anything,” he explains in his statement. “Anything could be any object or figure.”

In some of his abstract sketches, he has smudged the lines and even added a bit of colour. “Everything has its own form and shape - the freely scrabbled, smudged drawings are merged with colour to blur the line between drawing and painting.”

Khokar piece, using graphite, crayon, oil pastel and dry pastel mixed media on binding paper, is titled ‘Solitude’. It was the most expensive drawing at Rs120,000.

In a contrast to Khokar’s confusing sketches, Karachi School of Arts graduate Faran Qureshi’s simultaneous exhibit consisted of some very figurative graphite sketches and mixed media creations. His work appears to signify censorship and a lack of freedom of speech. In the mixed media ‘Izterab’, a man stands scratching his head as he faces bright hazard signs bearing warnings such as ‘Do not trespass’ and ‘Minds under construction’.

In ‘Taharat’, a graphite sketch, a man in an undershirt appears to be struggling to pull a plunger off his mouth. In the corner, some brightly coloured flowers are visible, a common ingredient in his work.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 23rd,  2011.

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