Exhibition: Changing cityscapes, on canvas

Art pieces show commercial activities with growing urbanisation.

Maryam Usman March 13, 2015
The artists have used architectural materials such as plexiglass, wallpaper and tracing film. PHOTO: EXPRESS

ISLAMABAD: An exhibition of contemporary artworks by two young artists opened at the My Art World Gallery on Thursday.

Titled “Urban Landscapes”, the exhibition features artworks by Mina Arham and Amal Uppal, both of who are currently based in Lahore.

Zara Sajid, the gallery curator, said the exhibition is an ode to the ever-evolving cityscapes that surround us. She said that the show was curated in the heart of the capital as a symbolic gesture, where the same mushrooming growth of financial centres as in Karachi and Lahore, has not taken place yet.

Both the artists have studied major cities and depicted their organic growth, through expansion of population, buildings, construction and demolitions. “These are cities in Pakistan, however, as art, the images represent a global perspective relating to any city in the world,” Sajid added.

Arham’s work is based on urbanisation and urban sprawl. “It is how things keep growing and cities keep changing with time,” she said.

In her work, she has taken two directions. “One is that urban planning is happening in a way that it is unplanned but somehow there seems a pattern, and the other direction is how this phenomenon is changing the cities.”

The artist, who grew up in Islamabad, said she could barely recognise it now because of all the construction work happening. This thought manifests in one of her pen-on-wallpaper pieces, which depicts broken images of how the artist remembers the city from her childhood and the construction that has taken over.

Though fragmented, pieces of grey concrete and vibrant everyday life scenes come together in the bigger picture.

She has experimented by using architectural materials such as plexiglass, wallpaper and tracing film in her illustrations of cityscapes that seem well thought-out micro-structures.

Uppal works in pen-and-ink. “I’m not going to compare my work to Dali because I’m obviously nowhere there yet but the concept is somewhat inspired by how he would paint a portrait but not really paint it - he would paint what he felt about it.”

She said that since her husband is an architect, she became influenced by his work and began making ‘therapeutic’ cityscapes.

Uppal, who is also a game designer, is studying the isometric angle and a combination of the design.

“While working on this series, a number of events took place in Lahore, attacks and basic shortages being the most prominent.

Though this isn’t new, I feel it is our own personal protest that we still keep going,” said Uppal, adding that the transition of urban cityscape into decaying structures figures in her work and that is how she saw her native city of Lahore.

Shireen Ikramullah, artist and guest at the exhibition, commented on one of Arham’s paintings saying, “I like that piece in particular because of the composition and it being a vertical piece. Composing vertical pieces is not easy and she has done a good job. Aside from the colour, it is a piece that stands out in the crowd.”

Argentine Ambassador Rodolfo-Martin Saravia, who inaugurated the exhibition, said he was amused by the minimal and contemporary art pieces and that he could connect to them as he had visited some of the places represented in the artworks.

The exhibition will continue till March 20.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 14th, 2015.


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