Painting exhibition: ‘Travels of a Reluctant Messiah’ go on display

Lahore-based artist paints her journeys from Cairo to Punjab.

Artworks take one back in time but at the same time are contemporarily vibrant and fresh. PHOTO: HUMA CHOUDHARY


An exhibition of the works of Lahore-based painter Saima Ali went on display at Nomad gallery on Saturday.  

The show titled “Travels of a Reluctant Messiah” has brought up a narrative of history, culture and personal story of the artist.

From a distance, Ali’s work is magnetic. The richness of the work lures one into discovering small frames of figurines that stand out in a beautiful splash of mix-media. With each step drawn towards a piece, it is only to eventually land in opulent details.

Ali largely uses subtle acrylic and pastel hues teasing the eye with splashes of vibrant tones of the palette that make space in between the work. She incorporates some of her original sketches and works around it with an opulent taste by using mediums such as marbling, washes and strong strokes. With the use of silver and gold leaf; Arabic text; photographs; magazine; and miniature cutouts, Ali beautifully submerges the life of individual pieces and knits an entire image with a message.

With reflections of old Lahore architecture embedded between the strokes, she takes one back in time while the modern layering of texture makes it contemporarily vibrant and fresh. Speaking to The Express Tribune, Ali said she was trying to keep the positive alive by narrating stories with a thought-provoking reflection. Inspired by her surroundings as she moved from places, she would start a piece in one place but end it years later in another. From her stay in Cairo to Kasur in Punjab is also made into exquisite work.

In her statement, the artist begins with the T S Eliot quote: “What we call the beginning is often the end… The end is where we start from.” She says that she has always been interested in harmony between space and form with collages and calligraphy woven together.

“To remain in touch with the past is to keep the history alive, lost images in time resonating through a flow of vibrant colours and textures,” She said. “Hardest task is inventing a pictorial language that would convey a personal way of seeing things, while at the same time discovering what the personal vision is.”

“Ali’s paintings affirm her contribution to the legacy of Muslim art while, in essence, being a symbol of modernity. The narratives are familiar while she plays with the compositions and imagery to give visual strength and highlights links with local heritage and culture,” said Nageen Hyat, director of the gallery.

The collection acquires an abstract juxtaposition of patterns and storytelling which is symbolic and eye-catching, said Hyat. “Tradition side by side with modernity.”

The exhibition will continue till April 16.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 5th, 2015.


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