It begins with the artist, Farida Batool, in front of the Naqi Market on The Mall. She is then seen walking on Queen’s Road. Her ‘walk’ concludes in front of the Jain Mandir in Anarkali.
Batool’s New Works, a 70-foot ensemble – on display at Rohtas 2 – is, in her own words, “a narration of the city… [a reflection] on its development over the last 20 years”.
It took Batool a week, in January, to take the photographs and a month to put them together. Developing the concept, she says, took many months.
A Fine Arts graduate of the National College of Arts, Batool has used lenticular printing – which involves ‘interlacing’ photographs and then mounting them behind a lenticular lens to make it appear animated and three dimensional.
Farida says she is both the narrator and the protagonist, “Lenticular images best convey what I want to convey. It appears as if I’m meeting the people on the street.”
Other images include those of radical graffiti that has been painted over and repainted. The walk chalking applauds the Arab Spring and the man who killed former governor Salmaan Taseer, the ‘courage’ of Mumtaz Qadri.
The assemble shows Batool walking around the city in different outfits – conservative yet casual. She had a photographer take her pictures while walking down The Mall and some adjacent roads, including Queen’s Road and Allah Baksh Road, Wahdat Road, Jail Road and the old Anarkali market.
She is seen walking by a security guard outside the Fatima Jinnah Medical College, barriers and security outside the visa centre on Queens Road. These, says Batool, depict the relationship between the state and the citizens.
Posters and hoardings advertising various products – “illustrating the consumer culture” – can also be seen in photos. Batool concedes that it might not be a complete representation of the city “but it encapsulates enough.”
For her the finest description of her work is the prose of Urdu author Siddiq Alam, which is carried on the exhibition invite, “And the river that flows by our city? Maybe you do not realise it is the same river that flows by every city in every country of the world.”
“One can see similar messages of intolerance towards other sects or races in cities all around the world,” she says, pointing to the pictures where she’s walking on Wahdat Road, interlaced with pictures from Gulistan-i-Qamar and old Anarkali.
Batool has not priced her work. “It’s too elaborate to make a home display, but I can see it displayed in a museum gallery.”
Art critic Qudoos Mirza found Batool’s use of the lenticular technique “clever and intelligent.” Mirza said he had seen Batool use the medium before, but her latest work showed a tremendous improvement. He also praised her selection of images, “It depicts the artist’s view of the city; she selected images that reflect the authority of the state.”
To Mirza, the more one looks at the artwork and moves around the more he would discover. He said he had looked at the canvas for an hour, from various angles. “It’s very engaging that way,” Mirza said.
Qudsia Raheem, the curator of the Zahoorul Akhlaq Gallery at NCA, described Batool’s work as “an essay”. “Farida has captured the city’s evolution,” she says.
The art work will be on display until April 20.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 10th, 2012.