For the month of October ikono is proud to present a series of artworks selected by Camilla H. Chaudhary. curator and director of ArtChowk Gallery in Karachi, Pakistan.
Her Carte Blanche, “Temporal Search” brings four solo shows under one conceptual umbrella.
The curatorial thinking behind these works is the idea of appropriating the past through different media to discuss the present. The artists in exhibition contextualize history into the present by using traditions: literary, artistic or cultural. Individually and collectively, they provoke a cerebral interaction with the viewer, merging strong technique and concept to create works that are distinctive and specific in their visual commentary. All test artistic boundaries to create works that go beyond the obvious and are concerned with present-day social and political issues.
Simeen Farhat’s installations take their origins from the calligraphic legacy of South Asia and the Middle East. The deconstructed text, based on Urdu, Persian, English and Bengali poetry, morphs into a sensory experience as she manipulates its form and structure. While not a calligrapher, she has merged the Muslim passions for poetry and the carved text into sculptural installations and develops their narrative further to become socio-political commentary.
She explores the poetry of Rumi, Khayyam, Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Hafez and also the English poet Edward Fitzgerald. Urdu and Persian poetry is filled with double meaning, often discussing love (both mystical and human) and political commentary through the same verses. This expressive versatility combined with her preoccupation with post 911 global politics led to exploring the visual interpretation of the poetry. Many of the earlier works are direct political statements, stark installations discussing the prejudice and dogma that dominates public beliefs on both sides of the debate. Her more recent works are subtler in their statements, using the poetry to make her point.
Simeen completed her MFA from Texas Christian University, Fort Worth, Texas.
Jamil Baloch’s work remains rooted in his Baluch heritage, from where he sources his subject matter. Trained as a sculptor and painter from the National College of Art in Lahore, his practice explores new ground in medium and style while staying true to its core narrative. Social and gender inequality are recurring topics, dealt through the context of his indigenous culture. Running concurrently with this narrative is a practice that consistently evolves in its use of media, and reads like a linear story, simultaneously becoming a deeper study of its subject and expanding its context.
In this series his wood-based sculptures use the natural material in a uniquely contemporary voice; his exploration of imagery becomes more intensive as he progresses to the core of traditional motifs symbolic of Baluchi culture, expanding them into abstraction. This serves as a metaphor for his subject matter, the Baluchi people. Constructing complex grids, linear movement, texture, all with his paintbrush he sub-consciously references multiple influences: culture, history and Islamic geometry among others.
Asif Ahmed, a miniaturist, balances the graceful precision of miniature painting with exploration of scale, composition and subject that is rooted in the present. Historically miniaturists were chroniclers of history, depicting battles and courtly life in layered paintings. Asif’s compositions are more simplified yet remain true to the same purpose, using symbols often depicted in ancient miniatures such as royalty and their regalia as metaphors in a contemporary context, executing them with the exquisite precision required of fine miniature painting. Traditional symbols are used to represent current axes of power that are often strongly criticized, such as the portrait series titled “A Noble Mughal”. Asif graduated in miniature painting from the National College of Arts in Lahore.
Abdullah Qamer graduated in painting from Karachi University. A visual artist and social activist, Abdullah combines his painting practice with working for social change through art and theatre.
His consciousness is explicit in his work: each piece has a specific narrative, one complete subject that it discusses. The enigma of his work is that it is open to interpretations beyond his intentions. His metal sculptures discuss social injustices, yet present a visual that is organic and incorporates a dialogue on the genesis of creation and growth. A similar narrative can be extrapolated from his paintings: works like “Conclusion” and “Argument” have a cellular composition with obscured beginnings and endings.
Abdullah is also very influenced by 17th century reformist poets such as Bulleh Shah and Waris Shah, whose poetry preached tolerance and a disdain for any theocratic doctrine that did not result in social betterment. This influence is embryonic, directly inspiring the subject matter of many of the works, yet is treated very subtly, obscured by a strong contemporary aesthetic that underlies his artistic practice.
Camilla H. Chaudhary
Curator and Director
ArtChowk-The Gallery and ArtChowk.com