Capturing the complexity of childhood-adulthood transition

NCA students display their creativity at the US embassy.

Mavra Bari July 21, 2012


The guests entering the gallery were instantly confronted with an artfully grotesque collection of mutilated and severed corpses, limbs and heads made out of polyester fillings, yarn and various fabrics.

Mizna Zulfiqar, the artist behind the collection, said, “I have used stitching that resembles medical sutures to highlight the theme of torture.” She said that her installations show all kinds of individuals to signify that no group is safe from the threat of victimisation and torture in Pakistan.

She was one of the 28 students from the National College of Arts in Lahore who got a chance to show their ingenuity and versatility while displaying their post-thesis artworks at the US embassy on Thursday.

Though the mediums employed by each artist were different, a handful of artists drew inspiration from their child-self or the phase of childhood itself.

Though quite heavy and grim for an entry piece, Zulfiqar’s work instantly intrigued and hooked guests with anticipation. Her most haunting hanging installation is a fetus, located a few feet away from the rest of the collection. “The fetus hangs alone; it hasn’t even had a chance to live but has still faced torture,” explained the artist.

“I wanted to make a piece of art that viewers would have to interact with, confront and be moved out of their comfort zone,” Zulfiqar said.

On the wall next to Zulfiqar’s work was an arresting grand oil on canvas painting, Nostalgia III, by Shanzey Mir. The haunting portrait was of a young naked girl and boy, the innocence of their childhood juxtaposed with raw sexuality.

Nostalgia IV followed a similar style, but depicted a pre-pubescent girl wearing a pearl necklace and shoes. Though the subject’s figure was unformed, there was something subtly seductive and suggestive about the image.

The use of ornaments on the naked human form added to the intrigue. The artist’s strict use of earthy tones emphasise the primal quality in the paintings. Mir was not there to shed light on her work, but her paintings were admired by all.

Ali, a musician who performed at the event, said, “I felt quite uncomfortable but in a very moving and powerful way. [These paintings] have a very deep context, which almost eludes the viewer.”

Sayhr Syed’s work also derived from childhood. However, her three miniature mix media pieces were more personal, as they referred back to her childhood love for dollhouses. Sayhr used glass encasements to show her detailed miniature work that is eye-catching yet subtle and refined.

She added a layer of complexity to her simple affection for child play things with the impending initiation into womanhood. “I wanted to incorporate themes of domesticity with a young girl’s play to symbolise my own struggle with becoming a housewife or a working woman --- a struggle I think many women encounter,” she said.

Nageen Hayat, curator of the Nomad Art Gallery, said, “I really enjoyed the quirky quality of the mix media miniature pieces, it was such a novel approach of bringing the two mediums together.”

The exhibit was arranged by Rohtas Gallery.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 21st, 2012.


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