Upon entering Tanzara Gallery, one is immediately struck by the bright colours of the artwork on display. The gallery is displaying paintings and intricate ink drawings, by the renowned Pakistani abstract artist, Wahab Jaffer. The 36 visually appealing acrylic paintings dominate most of the space due to the large canvases, while the 20 black and white drawings, have a single wall to themselves.
Wahab Jaffer belongs to an era of the master modernistic artists of Pakistan, having interacted with artists like Gulgee, Sadequain, Ahmed Parvez and Bashir Mirza, and learnt from them. His journey began when he took painting classes at the famous Indus Gallery founded by Ali Imam in the 70s. Influenced by Frances Newton Souza’s usage of acrylics, and inspired by Ahmed Parvez’s style, it took Jaffer some years to carve out his identity. Decades later, he has been extensively exhibited both locally and abroad. As Noshi Qadir, owner of Tanzara Gallery, revealed while speaking with Youlin, this is Wahab Jaffer’s 5th solo exhibition with Tanzara Gallery. Internationally, his work has been displayed in the Asia Pacific Museum in Pasadena, California, at the art gallery of Peel’s, Brampton, Ontario, Canada, and at the National Gallery of Modern Art, Mumbai, among other places. As an avid art collector, he has one of the biggest collections in Pakistan.
Having closely observed the evolution of Jaffer’s work, Qadir said about the exhibition, “There is definitely a stronger colour palette. Moreover, the emergence of multiple women’s faces in a single canvas is also a new phenomenon.” She lamented that Jaffer couldn’t attend the exhibition himself, but revealed that he has always been supportive of the gallery. In fact, his work was displayed at the 2nd art exhibition held at the newly formed Tanzara Gallery in 2007.
Jaffer is known for his treatment of feminine faces, birds and vases. To complement the joyful energy of his bright colour palette, a serene mood is created through the Mona Lisa smiles on the women’s faces. As one of the visitors commented, “The colours have an almost therapeutic affect on the mind.” The cornucopian heads of the women, which sometimes come across as turbans or crowns, often have birds emerging from them. On vertical canvases, similar birds emerge out of long vases, along with the plants falling out in systematic disarray. While the birds convey a sense of freedom, the plants seem to celebrate nature. With a strong emphasize on form, colour and space, the pleasing compositions exude grandeur.
In contrast to the acrylics, the black and white ink drawings with their nearly equal sized black frames have been delightfully arranged in rows of five and columns of four. These surrealistic works first emerged when Jaffer spent some time at a hospital in Houston, recovering from heart surgery back in 1985. With the help of a simple notepad and pen, Jaffer expressed his bleak situation versus the whiteness of his surroundings. This branching out has carried on, and as a result these drawings were created over a span of more than a decade. The doodle-like portrayal of the same subjects, grants them new meanings when viewed alongside the acrylics. Even when the feminine faces bear similar expressions, the absence of colours makes the lines starkly stand out. The patterns are strangely disturbing, and in one case the chaotic lines of the background overtake the feminine face. With entire drawings consisting of just birds, their form has been more fully explored as well, but they no longer convey freedom and instead seem simply malevolent.
While the artist was absent, his bold definitive style speaks for itself. In previous interviews, Jaffer has said that he finds women inspiring and fascinating, and his subject of his canvases testify to this. The exhibition continues till 6th November. All paintings and drawings are for sale, and the price list is available at the gallery.
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