Zindan-e-Khayal: Artist depicts life and deadlocks with butterflies and doors

Saqib Mughal sees butterflies as symbol of change, imagination and free life


Yusra Salim May 19, 2015
Artist Saqib Mughal, whose works are on display at Koel gallery, is inspired by butterfly wings as their ‘innate curiosity, freedom of movement and vibrant colours’ always attracted him. PHOTO: COURTESY KOEL GALLERY

KARACHI: Saqib Mughal's current body of work is a continuation of his use of butterflies, walls and doors as symbols of change and diversity but with different subjects.

His exhibition, titled 'Zindan-e-Khayal,' opened at the Koel gallery on Thursday. In his 14 pieces, Mughal has chosen mixed media on canvas as his medium. "I used butterflies as a symbol of change and imagination and to depict a free life," said Mughal, describing his leaning towards the winged insects.

Explaining his inclination, he told The Express Tribune that their 'innate curiosity, freedom of movement and vibrant colours' had always attracted him. "The butterfly's colours in my paintings are usually dripping down or draining away as if the butterfly is losing something valuable by being in a motionless state," he said, talking about the fading lines of colour present in almost all of his work.

Besides playing with colours and butterflies, Mughal has a unique technique to change his normal canvas into a visually distinctive one. "Making this kind of canvas is not difficult but a bit technical," explained the artist, who graduated from Karachi School of Arts in 1997. "It makes the viewer touch and feel what it actually is."

According to him, it took him two years to complete this lengthy project. "I constructed the wall texture brick by brick via acrylic paint to generate a unique visual experience," said Mughal.

Pointing towards one of his pieces, titled 'Hisar', he said that it took him two months to complete this one piece that was full of butterflies. "Each butterfly is handmade and made of acrylic paint, which needs to dry, and then I cut it out in the shape of a butterfly, which was then pasted on the canvas," he explained.

Through his art, Mughal has depicted two sides of life. Talking about the recurring motif of doors in his work, Mughal said that while a door can give you a way to step out and explore, it can, at the same time, also stop you. "The walls and wings stand in contrast to each other — one depicts freedom of action while the other depicts a complete lack of freedom," reasoned the artist.

According to him, the wooden doors drawn in the centre of the butterfly's wings in each piece portray an imprisonment of vision and thought. For the artist, doors embody a very interesting characteristic — he sees them as a 'decision point' that allows you to either get out or is closed on you.

Mughal's work is a combination of Eastern and Western styles as both regions have influenced him. "If you look at that piece, you can see happiness, joy and life represented by that red circle," he said, pointing towards a piece titled 'Independence Celebration'. "The white dots portray the stars in the sky. But the same white dots are actually a spider web if you look at them closely and this red circle is actually a sign of danger."

The show runs till May 25 at Koel gallery.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 20th, 2015.

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