A different form of calligraphy

Published: November 7, 2015
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Amin Rehman’s works on display at Chawkandi Art Gallery depict the technique of script within scripts. The calligraphic display is written in English and Urdu-styled English with its distinctive dots [nuqtay] and extensions [shoshay]. PHOTOS: COURTESY CHAWKANDI ART GALLERY

Amin Rehman’s works on display at Chawkandi Art Gallery depict the technique of script within scripts. The calligraphic display is written in English and Urdu-styled English with its distinctive dots [nuqtay] and extensions [shoshay]. PHOTOS: COURTESY CHAWKANDI ART GALLERY

KARACHI: A very different form of calligraphy emerged at the Chawkandi Art Gallery in a show titled, ‘Other Histories’, a collaborative project with Tariq Ali, a British-Pakistani writer and journalist.

The exhibition, a travelling show, has come from Canada and will be heading to Lahore next. Artist Amin Rehman has given different treatments to the age-old traditions of calligraphy. He has experimented with diverse forms of mediums and complemented the texts with stylistic writing not common to the eye. All calligraphic treatment has been done on the texts of Ali, whose narrative is based on issues of global politics and the realities of the 21st century.

Islamic art: An eclectic mix of calligraphy

The technique of script within scripts is the first thing that strikes the viewer. Like a story running parallel to a story, the calligraphic display is written in English and Urdu-styled English with its distinctive dots [nuqtay] and extensions [shoshay]. One such comment is on nuclear-armed India and Pakistan. It reflects the hypocrisy of the international world and how on the one hand, it offers contempt while on the other, it does nothing to stop the two countries from from developing the arsenal. It further expresses a wish in the subtext that the two nations would use those resources for building schools in their regions.

Commenting on the complete journey of Rehman’s artistic life, curator Amra Ali said that Rehman’s work converses with many traditions at the same time. “It’s like a book,” she said. “You enter the phase while reading it. When the difference between local and global art has blurred, Rehman’s work remains different from what you see in the international market.”

Two other different treatments were in the mediums of bee wax base and mix media. In both these mediums, Rehman has used the text of Ali in short one-liners. The coin-like shapes of slabs (composed of mix media such as wood and plastic) had messages such as ‘Speak up from your grave’, ‘History begins with us’ and ‘Between Past and Future’. The other part consisted of wax slabs which although had inscriptions in geometrical shape, also appeared abstract with writings such as ‘Muk muka’ and ‘Be-baki’. “Pigment and raisins have been used on a base of bee wax. Other mediums include vinyl and video installation,” explained Rehman, pointing at the various displays on the wall.

Chinese tinge: Islamic calligraphy exhibition opens today

Amra Ali wrote in her curatorial essay, “Rehman’s critique of globalisation has touched on issues of child labour, on issues of  the ship-breaking port of Gaddani, the hazardous toxic waste that has been dumped into the water of third-world countries, issues of governance, colonisation [and] racism.” In other words, Rehman’s and Ali’s collaboration provides a great learning opportunity for those looking for a third dimension to the world view.

The show runs till November 14.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 7th, 2015.

 

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