A pyramid-shaped barricade juxtaposed with lime green mushrooms emanates feelings of restriction and alienation. Titled Playground, the 39 by 49 inches acrylic-on-canvas piece is more than just a contrast of bold colours.
For its artist Saba Qizilbash, it is a contrast between the past and the present.
Qizilbash’s paintings draw inspiration from barricades she saw perched on Cantonments roads while visiting her parents from Dubai.
The artist’s absence from her show was made up by her friend Saamia Vine, who also had six of her paintings on display.
Vine last showcased her paintings at Rohtas 2 in 2003. The exhibition’s title, Piece of Land, comes from a series of four paintings by Qizilbash. The paintings show a spread of satchels, children’s shoes and frocks spread across a grassy green floral backdrop.
Vine said the connotation of Qizilbash’s Playground isn’t just the physical barriers but also mental intrusions that have crept into people’s mind in the wake of terrorist activities.
It’s a bold jump for the artist, said Murtaza Jafri, director of the Visual Arts Programme at the National College of Arts and also Qizilbash’s former teacher.
Jafri appreciated the bold colours and the use of lines to fill up the mushrooms. He also applauded use of flat technique, which gives a painting a poster-like appeal while retaining softness.
Jafri said good use of flat technique can only be observed and appreciated by an artist. “It may intimidate a regular visitor, but its effective use cannot go unappreciated by someone who has worked with acrylics and oils,” he added.
In another painting, Organ of Fire, Qizilbash has incorporated pictures of her twin daughters, Shahzeen and Rozeen, eyeing a big red-edged mushroom.
Vine said she sometimes found her friend’s work a little disturbing. Using mushrooms, insects and sharp colours against visuals of Qizilbash’s children seems a bit problematic, she said. Vine, however, added that these paintings are a comparison between Qizilbash’s own uninhibited childhood and the watchful and inhibited childhood of her children.
Qizilbash’s work is priced between Rs40,000 and Rs80,000.
Of the six pieces Vine has displayed, the most talked about were four model paintings.
The Pearl painting comprised of a box with a brown and peach patterned side against an off-white canvas. It had pearls lining the sides of the box.
Vine admitted that her work catalogued her progress as an artist. “I was clarifying my own ideas of dimensional models. It’s a fantastical approach to story telling. One finds liberty from all things ordinary.” It also is an exploration of extraordinary happenings within the confines of our claustrophobic lives, Vine said.
‘Way of seeing,’ she said, is a self portrait. “I have been told that I made myself look old, but this is what I felt when I was painting.” The idea was not to beautify myself but to paint what I felt, she said.
Vine said her paintings are part of an in-process work. “I see my self doing more model paintings and portraits. I want to show more flesh in my paintings.”
A final year NCA visual arts student said Vine’s work was ‘just beautiful to look at.’
Her paintings are priced between Rs15,000 and Rs40,000.
Aatika Ali, an art historian and an NCA professor, said the work was diverse and offered the onlooker a lot.
Ali said that the style and themes of the two artists were different. “In Pakistan, issue-oriented painting has become a tradition. This is a refreshing break from the usual.”
The exhibition will run until March 17.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 10th, 2012.