Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Pakistan Palette !

This is my article on The Pakistan Contemporary Art Show at Devi Art Foundation which appeared in the Sunday magazine "Graphiti" of The Telegraph Newspaper which has a print run of 0.5 million copies. Comments are welcome!

The art scene is back at its vibrant best! Week after week there are new shows and one of the season’s best has been assembled by Anupam Poddar at the Devi Art Foundation.

Poddar’s passion as a collector is well known but his initiative in mounting a show of his collection of Pakistan Contemporary Art gives viewers a chance to see new art from our neighbour that’s innovative and absorbing. I was also impressed with his choice of curator, Rashid Rana, one of Pakistan’s foremost contemporary artists best known for his Red Carpet & Veil series — tiny images of an abattoir forming a red carpet and pornographic images in the shape of a veil.

The exhibition of 45 artists, culled from the vast collection of Anupam and Lekha Poddar, is aptly titled Resemble Reassemble. It showcases Experimental Art rather than the miniature intricate work we associate with Pakistani art. The art which spans the past decade is fresh and for a country which has issues with travel visas and limited interactions with other countries due to security issues, strongly contemporary. It’s art with which you instantly connect and the satire, in fact, is sometimes too much in your face. It’s also refreshingly without the hype and speculation of Indian Contemporary Art.

And the icing on the cake — for me — is the show’s staging at the Devi Art Foundation in Gurgaon, a stunning museum with lots of open spaces and excellent ceiling heights where you revel in the experience of soaking in the works. I was quite impressed with the earlier works of Ayaz Jokhio, one of the participants in the recently concluded Asia Pacific Triennale in Brisbane which also had Subodh Gupta and Thukral & Tagra from India. The show featured his works from 2005 and if I look at his works today, they’ve changed quite a lot, but even in 2005 you can feel the intensity of his style.

So here are my top three picks. Imran Ahmed Khan in this installation Implode 1 has various parts of an AK 47 rifle suspended with surgical medical instruments all hanging from the ceiling in a spectacular visual display. According to him, weapons and surgical instruments are related. Both penetrate human flesh, one to kill, the other to cure, both are handled by human figures and in most cases draw blood. This was a haunting image and executed beautifully.

Implode 1 by Imran Ahmed Khan

In the second work, Amber Hammad gets herself into the photograph titled Maryam, the Arabic name for Mary. It recreates the Mother Mary & Child genre that has inspired many paintings and sculptures around the world. She recreates this image in front of traditional Islamic architecture and the photograph has a box of diapers and a book on erotic art next to it. I admired the way the artist conveyed the various dimensions of a woman’s life in an Islamic environment. It’s a subtle yet defining work with a touch of humour in it.

Amber Hammad’s Maryam

And of course, no commentary on Pakistan Contemporary Art can still be complete without some miniature work in it. Nusra Latif Qureshi has lived in Australia for many years and in this work, titled Rainbird, For What Place Are You Crying?, maybe the lovers pointing to some distant location in the work is her own longing for her country –— a yearning shared by all Diaspora artists. Her work, an excellent fusion of miniature art with an exploration of personal, social and political histories, is stunning. Take note specially of her deft use of striking colours and the subtle intricacies inspired by the traditional miniature work.

Rainbird, For What Place Are You Crying? by Nusra Latif Qureshi

I have also been collecting Pakistan Contemporary Art for the last two years and have been impressed with the quality of the work. The values are also quite reasonable especially for the quality of work available. It’s not difficult to get a nice work from a younger contemporary artist for around Rs 50,000 and even experienced contemporary artists are all available in the Rs 2 lakh to Rs 4 lakh range. Some of the galleries showing such cutting edge Pakistan Contemporary Art are Green Cardamom in London and Grey Noise in Lahore.

So if you are looking for art which is a commentary on the times in which we live, start looking at Pakistan Contemporary Art seriously. There’s some great art across the border just waiting to be collected! And if you are ever in the vicinity also do take a trip down to Gurgaon as the show stays open till May 10.

Kapil Chopra is Senior Vice President of Oberoi Hotels & Resorts.He writes a blog on collecting and investing in Indian Contemporary Art at www.indianartinvest.blogspot.com.He also writes for The Telegraph newspaper in the Sunday magazine " Graphiti" every fortnight. In Delhi, he writes for "The Mail Today " newspaper and "First City" magazine.

1 comment:

michelle said...

India has always been respecting good talent, be it from its neighbors..too.
most of the online sites like:
indianartcollectors,saffronart etc..
allow you to buy arts of great artists without any difference of the country they belong to.