The outer world may well be a construct but our constant struggle to navigate it and derive meaning and a sense of identity is brought to the fore in Nomad, an art exhibition currently underway at Karachi’s Full Circle Gallery. Curated by Shanal Kazi, the group-show features over 50 works by 22 artists and makes some startling connections on how we derive meaning when the self is in a constant state of flux.
As Kazi astutely points out, Nomad – a wanderer who doesn’t live in a fixed place – is all about stripping away the layers and getting to the core of “who we really are” and how that is always evolving.
From oil paintings and photographs to digital prints and installations, the works don’t shy away from getting down to the gritty business of exploring such questions. There’s one called, “Blobs of DescArt,” splashes of primary colored resin emblazoned with a mirror that spells “Cogito Ergo Sum.”
“When you glance into the mirror you can see something of yourself in the work – something playful and lighthearted I hope,” says Changez Khan.
“Jail Bars” and “Sea with a Boat,” acrylic paintings made by Anaab Z. Hameed, an inmate at Karachi Jail are about the “two separate lives” the artist has led – ‘Inside and Outside.’ The accompanying wall text says they are about the artist’s hope that “a new beginning awaits” after being confined everyday in the grayness of jail.
Another piece, ‘Pleasure and Pain,’ an oil painting by Yusra Taqi Allawala shows a hand (presumably a woman’s) scrunching up a white sheet. Suggestive of sex, it depicts something rarely talked about in Pakistani society. “That one small moment, that always remains hidden, is what I wanted to capture,” says Yusra. There’s also the oil painting series, ‘Overlap,’ that uniquely juxtaposes two cultural identities – Western and Pakistani – by placing a piece of Dunkin Donut on top of the tail side of a Pakistani coin that says Islamic Republic of Pakistan. The fact that the donut is almost eaten up in ‘Overlap 2c’ shows how Western consumerism is fast dominating the Pakistani identity.
One performing art piece, Coming Out, by Imran Mushtar Nafees, half way into the exhibit, was particularly apposite. With the lights of the gallery now dimmed, Nafees, seemingly trapped in a 7 feet tall rectangular box, made of fabric, laments the unfairness of being ‘othered,’ or ‘hidden’ if you are different. The sounds of the ghungroo, a musical anklet tied to the feet in Indian classical dances, accompanies the dialogue while a small torch light creates shadows and illuminates the box from within. While wishing to eradicate the top order that reinforces the suppression of the “rest of the 99 percent,” Nafees, finally fed up with being ‘trapped’ in a prison, decides to break free.
I thought he wasn’t going to ‘come out,’ remarked Alizeh Naqvi, a fine arts student at the University of Karachi, who was visiting the show.
“The fact that he did, shows that it is possible to take action and come out on the 0ther side, so to speak, rather than just mourn the state of things and do nothing,” interjected Mahvish Khan, also studying fine arts at the University.
Other prominent pieces on display include Erum Akhtar’s, “Incognito Mode,” Begum Bano’s, “All the world’s a stage and we are merely choohay billiyaan” (cats and dogs), Raheela Abro’s “Owl” and “Rooster” and Anushka Rustomji’s “States of Solitude.”
In short, the exhibition really has something for everyone – whether you like modern, conceptual art or are more of a classics fan you won’t be disappointed by what the Nomad has to offer and might even find a sense of solidarity in the way the artists express their struggles to negotiate the inner and outer worlds.
The exhibition concludes on December 14.