A group show curated by SM Raza opened at the Grandeur Art Gallery in Karachi on April 12, titled Memoir and showcasing the work of four dynamic artists: Batool Zehra, Nayab Noor, Zahra Asim and Sana Nezam. With canvases exploring sub-themes of mysticism, creativity and a longing for the past, the show features works that bring back long forgotten childhood memories, thoughts and dreams.
Nayab Noor, a self-taught artist hailing from Karachi, smears large canvases in portraits with conspicuous and bold brush strokes, immediately evoking a strong sense of nostalgia. The layout of these untitled paintings is seemingly straightforward, but hides layers of emotion underneath. Nayab’s work reminded me of Vincent Van Gough and Cezanne’s paintings, as her impressionistic pieces seem as though they yearn to say something to the viewer. “Portrait is my main theme, which defines the emotions that lie in the mind of a person if he or she wants to say something”, explains Nayab. Her piece, Paper, The Origin of Creativity, shows less dense, almost careless, but vivid strokes that depict a young girl creating objects with paper. This again takes us back to childhood memories and the unrestrained creative energy that one possesses in one’s youth.
“What we have today becomes a memory tomorrow, and ultimately everything disperses. I burn down different materials and use ash to create something new”, says Batool Zehra, a fine artist from Karachi. She paints in mixed media, making particular use of ash in her artworks. Handling the material very diligently, Batool creates a layer on the surface where tiny bubbles and circles come together to create a unified piece of art. Through her piece Entangled, Batool portrays the deconstruction of thoughts, ideas and memories, which disappear ever so quickly like a bubble. Her other works reflect cherished memories, with Dear Diary as a standout piece, showing a group of friends enjoying a day out on what appears to be a sunny day.
Sana Nezam reflects on relationships and memories with the use of subtle imagery and symbolism. With verses taken from Rumi’s poetry, Sana creates a broad scape of textures on her canvas, and depicts not only her past experiences, but also her family members including her brother, niece and her own son. A sense of longing can be felt, as her subjects exude a somber feeling over something that has been lost. In A Lost Earring, Sana paints her niece, who appears sad after having lost a treasured possession. She has handled the paint and the textures skillfully to portray the little girl’s sentiments through her facial expressions. In Flight, Sana paints the younger version of her brother, who appears to be playing with a paper aeroplane, as a bird – a symbol of innocence – flies above him. “I painted my brother as being under the protection of a Taweez (talisman or an amulet). The white flowers which we used to call dum dum in our childhood don’t show up anymore, so I painted them as well; these objects represent the concept of personal attachment for us”, says Sana.
Finally, Zahra Asim from Lahore paints realistic images of what appear to be memories of a room and objects that she spent a lot of time with. Her works are full of details and colours that compel the viewer to gaze at them for a long time, searching for specific elements while admiring their depth. Created on smaller canvases, her artworks depict closed spaces filled with everyday items that may appear mundane at first, but have the ability to evoke strong memories from one’s past.
Memoir features a vibrant, fascinating collection, as it brings together vastly different artworks under a common theme, and the pieces on display are the result of different personal experiences and memories of the four artists. The show will continue at the Grandeur Art Gallery till April 22.
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