Missing persons

Rabia Ashfaque July 20, 2010

KARACHI: Buxom Lollywood belles go missing and wedding cards predict the future in an exhibtion of works by two artists from Jamshoro that opened at the Chawkandi Art Gallery on Tuesday.

The presence of women is strong in this show by Zeeshan Memon and Zubair Ahmed, who are both graduates of the Centre of Excellence in Arts and Design, Jamshoro. Memon’s canvases are a burst of colour inspired by the Pakistani film industry but with a twist: the women’s bodies are ‘missing’. His skillful painting of their costumes ensures that the viewer is in no doubt about their voluptuous, fleshy curves.

Memon feels that the men and women in the Pakistani film industry have become pop icons for the “lower middle class”, who see these actors in the light of national heroes and believe that their sense of “style, dialogue and dressing” must be copied and represented within their own lives.

“I did not want to show the faces of the icons I painted because I think that when people go to the movies to see actors like Sultan Rahi, they see themselves in his stead,” said Memon, who wanted to recreate people’s fantasies on canvas.

And the idea is aptly represented in many of Memon’s pieces, including the one in which two men are locked together in the middle of a brawl, holding each other’s “girehbaan”, as well as the images of women captured in the midst of “dance numbers”. These ones are, in a way, the strongest pieces. They are like the funfair cardboard cutouts with a round space for your face or the cutout paper clothes for dolls. The Lollywood actresses usually come across as unbearably coarse and vulgar, but by leaving their bodies out Memon has almost created a reminder that their bodies are beautifully reubenesque as well.

Not to miss either are his tongue in cheek “negative characters” that are literally painted as the negatives of a photograph.

Ahmed, on the other hand, is more interested in the lives of women in a society where their role has been predestined since the day they are born. He paints images on wedding cards to reinforce the idea of how women are trained to adapt to household chores and implement them in an almost scheduled manner from the day they are “married off”. A faceless bride faces a donkey, a rooster stares at a veiled bride. An iron sits on a wedding card. The romance of weddings is shaken up by these stark reminders of the quotidien.

The show will continue till July 27 at the Chawkandi Art Gallery. The pieces are priced between Rs15,000 and Rs45,000.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 21st, 2010.


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