Discerning displays: The gift of life, as seen in watercolour

Exhibit presents renditions of everyday people and scenery in watercolour by two seasoned artists.

Photo Myra Iqbal/maryam Usman February 18, 2014
The paintings on display are characterised by the intricate use of colour and form. PHOTO: MYRA IQBAL/EXPRESS


Crafting intricate details in a medium as elusive as watercolours is no easy feat. However, a mastery of the art can be detected in the paintings of V. Ananda Ma and Athar Jamal, on display at the Nomad Gallery starting Tuesday. Titled “Washing of the Water - People Place Time of Pakistan 2014”, the exhibition will be inaugurated by the Australian High Commissioner Peter Heyward.

Painting in watercolour, each artist brings out fine nuances of shade, tone and form through the challenging medium. While Ananda’s paintings focus on encapsulating specific moments, Jamal’s figurative is a continuum of the ethnic beauty which surrounds him.

“The artists’ keen sense of observation and eye for detail and expressions are indeed commendable, and the different styles of painting compliment each other remarkably,” said the gallery’s founder and director Nageen Hyat.

Ananda, who is Australian, finds Pakistanis an interesting lot.  From the colour of their skin to their attire and the manner in which they carry themselves under various circumstances — everything makes up a life story. Her subjects, who are everyday, real people from different strata of the society, come alive in the art pieces.

“Ideally, I’d like to go out to villages and paint on the spot, but I can’t do that, being a foreigner and a diplomat,” said Ananda. Hence, she has to rely on photographs taken at a set instance in time.

For this very reason, the paintings exude an uncanny resemblance to portrait photographs.

“I capture moments. In these fleeting, split-second encounters, eyes, facial lines and creases and the dress tell more stories than words ever could. I hope to reflect the remarkable essence of these characters in some way through the medium of water colour,” she explained at a press preview.

Instead of making “stereotypical” art, Ananda believes in approaching her subjects in an in-depth, honest manner, withholding the magic of the moment.

She retains the essence of her subjects’ expressions and garbs, depicting them as individuals. Portraits of men, women and children celebrate the diversity of this land in her work.

A professional artist since 2007, Ananda has exhibited in solo, group and juried shows internationally.  Her photographs and paintings feature in private collections in Europe, Australia and America.

Athar Jamal, a seasoned artist, has depicted scenes of rural life in the surroundings of Karachi. Portraying the women of Tharparkar engrossed in domestic chores, nursing children or lost in thought, his subjects exude beauty and resilience. Contrasted against the dullness of the desert, their clothes and ornaments shine dazzlingly in the blazing sun.

Using fluid strokes, he unfolds the textures, layers and colours to create and enliven pieces.

Jamal’s works encompass rural settings and contemporary urban spaces as much as the people inhabiting them. For instance, the traditional Thar women and the people dwelling in old Karachi are the sources of his inspiration.

A graduate of the Karachi School of Art, Jamal took up painting in the early 80’s when the art scene was saturated with renditions of landscapes. He has worked as an associate professor at the Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture for two decades and a teacher at the Karachi School of Art until his recent retirement.

He has exhibited widely and his work can be seen in private collections locally and abroad.

The exhibition will continue until March 5.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 18th, 2014.


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