There must be something symbolic about receiving someone’s handwritten message. For within that message lies the time and thought invested not only in writing it, but also ensuring that the meaning is correctly relayed, as unlike digital communication, one has to discard the entire sheet of paper or make unaesthetic corrections in order to edit it. Before technology was so deeply rooted in our daily lives, we wrote letters to convey, to express and to communicate.
Love, whether romantic or platonic, is one sentiment that has always had a special place in handwritten letters. And it is specifically love and the art of letter writing that a group of artists have infused in their latest exhibition, Love Letters, which opened at Sanat Initiative in Karachi on Valentine’s Day. To say that this show was a success is an understatement. The tribute to the lost art of letter writing and the preservation of memory within this exhibition is nostalgic, sentimental and highly impactful.
Lali Khalid has made a collection of framed artworks in paper and dried flowers, which are not only beautiful but offer depth in their simplicity. With a withered set of flowers named ‘Your Side of the Bed Lays Empty’ and a sunflower almost bowing down to the wind titled ‘Words, Only Hollow’, Khalid adorns the wall with numerous frames that follow a similar theme. On the contrary, Mohsin Shafi creates more textured works with ‘Confessions of a Secret Lover’, which consists of a pocket knife, a pebble, a book and a dried flower taken from people who were beloved to him. One can observe that the art here is neither abstract nor very aesthetic, but rather is bold and nostalgic in its meaning, which induces bittersweet emotions in the viewer.
Farazeh Syed combines photography, acrylic and collage in ‘You Came to Me like a Fluttering Buterfly’, a canvas that has a lot to offer in terms of the artwork contained within it and the depth of the meaning it conveys. Sehr Jalil makes an impact with her series on greeting cards, as within the gallery hangs an entire section of nearly 70 painted cards. Viewers could get lost in this section for a long time as each card is unique, vibrant and refreshing. It is not merely romantic love that has been covered by the artworks; memory and affection have been explored in all capacities, which is particularly evident in the works of Mohsin Shafi, Dua Abbas, Nida Bangash, Fatima Saeed and Julius John.
With a variety of other fascinating artworks by Hurmat ul Ain, Inaam Zafar, Rabbya Naseer, Rehana Mangi, Nurjahan Akhlaq and Zohreen Murtaza, Love Letters succeeds in bringing something innovative to the table, and executes it brilliantly. While we cannot expect letter writing to make a comeback in this digital age, the show has provided us with a lens to examine this lost art all over again. Letters with excerpts, although printed, were given as takeaways to all visitors after the exhibition, which further augmented the experience. The exhibition will continue at Sanat Initiative till February 23.
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