Pakistani art collectors are still acclimatising themselves to postmodern art, but Pakistan’s young artists have settled into this genre comfortably and are exploring contemporary themes. “Varied Impositions,” a collaborative display by Maliha Peracha, Sadia Salim and Sohail Abdullah, at the Koel Gallery last month, speaks volumes about our crumbling heritage and, more importantly, about the violence that is gripping Karachi.
Exploring the display, one is lulled into concentration by a melancholy instrumental playing in the background. It matches the mood of the exhibition, which is one of betrayal and insecurity, and leaves one with an eerie feeling of nostalgia and sadness.
Sadia Salim, in her ‘Untitled Series,’ uses everyday objects to express her concerns: she transfers onto ceramic plates, images of newspaper articles. On closer inspection, one can even spot the recent devastating blast at the JPMC hospital. The use of the colour red against the black-and-white text depicts the fear and bloodshed that has enveloped the lives of people living in a city riddled with bomb blasts and violence. The black ants scurrying across the surface of the cups may well represent the local populace, and the all-encompassing nature of the threat pervading the city. A skilled ceramist, Salim’s use of teacups may be a deliberate attempt on her part to tell us that violence is an intrinsic part of our daily lives, just like the cups we use – both are inextricably woven into the fabric of our lives. The exhibit also includes another set of plates to display images of black electricity poles. The accompanying bowls are in red and blue, breaking the monotony of the image. It seems that the artist, by using a dash of colour, is jerking her audiences out of their stupor, and into the harsh realities of everyday life.
In ‘Cityscape,’ Salim includes sculptures in terracotta, wood and stone which create an illusion of symmetry and proportion. The sculptures are carefully combined to relay opaque and cold cities.
Peracha’s exhibit strikes an emotional chord, especially with those Karachiites, who reminisce about the good old days when the city was free of such barriers.
Sohail Abdullah, Maliha Paracha and Sadia Salim’s work captures the spirit of Karachi as a coastal city and as a city rich in historical value.