Dua Abbas Rizvi likes to tell stories through paintings. She is one of the three artists whose work went on display at Rohtas Gallery on Thursday. Titled “Vast Narratives”, the exhibition also features Sujjal Kayani and Maira Abid.
In “Celestial Gardeners”, with the help of pastels on paper, Rizvi shows two girls, who could easily pass for twins because of their similar appearances, standing on what appears to be a fabric that has unravelled in places to reveal stars on a night sky.
The girls are holding watering cans and on the arc of the water flowing from the cans, colourful books follow a path that leads to holes dug in the ground.
“This is a retaliatory piece inspired by how suspiciously our society still regards those girls who read a lot of books, especially poetry and fiction, because there is no knowing what radical notions these books can infect their minds with,” Rizvi said.
“The girls are burying their books but they are also watering them so some good can come out of the buried books,” she added.
“The show evolves through the translation of material from one medium to another and re-distributes memory over a series of caches,” said Mona Khan, the gallery’s curator.
“Memory is revisited and suggests how it continues to resurface through the art of storytelling.”
In one series, Kayani revisits the past through three handwritten letters written by her family. She said the letters represented an almost obsolete technology that reminds one of days gone by.
She reproduced the original texts in Urdu and Potohari from the letters on a sepia paper. She then used a technique involving tea wash, photo transfer and water colour to paint the face of each letter’s recipient at the top left corner of the letter.
In another series, she produced Urdu storybooks that recount indigenous fairytales popular in her family. In some of her paintings, the women subjects resemble her physical self. But she said the paintings are not exactly self-portraits because she exaggerates the facial features.
Abid’s work used old, faded photos in one series of art pieces and intricately-drawn objects covered with stains in another series, to illustrate the unstable and pliable nature of memory.
The works of the artists compliment one another because they all reference materials more than ideas, either subtly in the case of Rizvi’s books or literally as in Kayani’s letters and Abid’s photographs. The exhibit will continue till April 4.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 30th, 2013.