Art review: Never forget Peshawar

Works of Peshawar artists make it to Karachi for the very first time

Minerwa Tahir February 08, 2015
A landscape by artist Abdur Rehman Baba. PHOTO COURTESY: FOMMA DHA ART CENTRE

There are a number of things that make the recent artwork exhibit from Peshawar special. It was the first time Karachi showcased the work of seven artists from Peshawar and people found catharsis in art since the brutal December 16 attack on Army Public School.

The featured artists included Abbas Ali, Abdur Rehman, Ghulam Shabbier, Jehanzeb Malik, Sajid Ali, Tayyeba Aziz and Zakir Ali. From portraits to landscapes, these artists brought out their best works in a bid to represent the more peaceful side of their city — without letting anyone forget the recent tragedy. According to the organisers, it was a gesture of support for the families affected by the act of terror.

A painting from the ‘Dreams and Drapes’ series by Tayyeba Aziz. PHOTO COURTESY: FOMMA DHA ART CENTRE

Although most of the paintings at the exhibition were equally captivating, two of Aziz’s paintings which appeared to be images of blood-stained drapes from her ‘Dreams and Drapes’ series, particularly stood out. The artist, who holds a masters degree in fine arts from the University of Peshawar, skilfully played with colours and light to recreate an image of the tragedy. The rustic shade of red gave the painting an intentional blood-like quality and managed to evoke powerful images of blood-stained clothes worn by the children who lost their lives in the Peshawar school massacre. The background, however, painted in shades of light blue and white, blended together lightly, managed to uplift the painting and create an illusion of hope. The use of those colours, although subtle, came as a respite from the pain that accompanies the memory of the loss of 132 children along with several others.

While some of the paintings at the exhibition were gloomy and acted as strong reminders of the tragedy, the rest were relatively less intense, but nonetheless powerful. One such example was Rehman’s rich and engaging illustration of nature. His detailed painting of two huts was effective in transporting one to the northern countryside and although the huts were in a dilapidated state, the beauty of the serene landscape remained untainted. While one was drawn in by the beauty of the landscape, it managed to shed light on the harsh lives of residents in the war-torn province at the same time.

Zakir Ali’s portrait of a horse. PHOTO CREDIT: AYSHA SALEEM

Another painting that depicted the turbulent city was Zakir Ali’s portrait of a horse. Despite being one of the younger artists in the group, his work was very promising. The horse was purportedly used as a symbol of war and was strategically placed right next to his other work which appeared to be an enlarged image of the horse’s eye. Since people often fail to empathise with the emotions of others, Ali lay special emphasis on it by being as literal with his strokes as possible, painting hints of grief and despair, accompanied by a glimmer of hope.

Ghulam Shabbier paints the undying charm of old buildings. PHOTO COURTESY: FOMMA DHA ART CENTRE

Overall, the artwork on display was rich and insightful, depicting a resilient Peshawar. “‘Aray wahan toh pata nahin kis tarha ka kaam kar rahay hon gay’ (who knows what kind of artwork is being produced by artists in Peshawar) is what people used to say about Peshawar’s artists. But today we can see their talent,” remarked artist Nahid Raza, present at the exhibition. The exhibition was indeed a curtain-lifter on the potential of Peshawar’s artists, who have proven that they are more than capable of going head-to-head with artists across the country.

Minerwa Tahir is a trainee subeditor at the Karachi desk with an interest in writing on art.

Published in The Express Tribune, Sunday Magazine, February 8th, 2015.


Parvez | 7 years ago | Reply The first picture...the landscape by Abdur Rehman Baba is just breathtaking ......strong French Impressionist influence and it always works.
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