My piece in TEHELKA magazine...

SCENES FROM Lollywood’s earliest raunch-fests play to a sex phone call in Urdu… Mustachioed heroes and plump heroines are preparing for what promises to be a very naughty time. This is an installation called Telephone Pyar by Adnan Malik showing at Islamabad’s prestigious National Gallery of Art, an institution run by the government in the high-security Presidential area.

At Lahore’s National College of Arts a unique miniature department gives new direction to the old subcontinental tradition. Many miniaturists from here have found recognition around the world. Among them is Mohammad Zeeshan, who has just returned from a residency programme in Weimar, Germany. Zeeshan’s new work takes a dig at the English alphabet using very graphic nudes.

Lahore’s famous Hira Mandi is also home to Cucoo’s Den, an art gallery and café run by Iqbal Husain. The son of a dancing girl, Husain is now a respected painter whose works are a keen document of the red light district. The rooftop café with its marble crucifix and grave slab centrepiece is a must-see for any visitor to Lahore.

The art community in Pakistan may be small, but it is thriving and trying to find a face and voice in these troubled times. It has not been an easy task, given the tightrope that ‘artistic freedom’ often means in Pakistan. But the environment also gives a certain muscle to art and creative transgression. These are not exactly halcyon days for the arts, but it’s hugely better than the ‘dark age’ of the Zia years where anything with a whiff of rebellion could be declared ‘un-Islamic’. That was the time when wearing sarees and watching films were also outlawed.

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77 cm X 56 cm
mixed media (charcoal, acrylic, enamel paint and reflective tape) on paper

This started out as a collage using the chamakpatti (reflective tape) I got from Pakistan and some (new kinda) paint... but gradually the paint encroached on every possible bit of space. The paint is the colour often associated with the sky i.e. unlimited space... so in a sense it was space that took up space... and created form within it, form in the form of galaxies, suns and nebulae... form that could also be contained within an atom... form that could expand to distances of millions of light years... form: square, reflective, blue, white, gold and iridescent.

This is Pakistan’s Sistine Chapel, more commonly known as Karachi's Frere Hall. It’s an old colonial church that now has the misfortune of standing within sighing distance of the American consulate. This makes stopping your vehicle in its vicinity and trying to capture the building in your camera a security risk. Thankfully, this idiotic injunction is routinely flouted (evidenced by the photographs).

Frere Hall also houses the largest work of Pakistan’s best-known artist Sadequain a.k.a. Sadequain Naqqash, so named for the filigree-like intricacy that he developed as his style. Frere Hall's ceiling was given to Sadequain to use as a canvas... but an untimely retreat from this world stopped the project midway. As I see it this was a blessing in disguise because visually the vacuum of the unfinished half of the work balances the sizzling otherworldiness of the finished half.



(Pix by Sahar Z)

In the month that Sahar and I spent in Pakistan we had the privilege of visiting galleries and private collections where 'a Sadequain' or 'Sadequains' were held up as trophy-rocks from an alien galaxy... you're proud to have them but don't quite know what to make of them. And that is precisely the beauty of Sadequain. He leaves you baffled and confused. It's almost as if his strokes have the power to enter your head and disturb you. At the National Art Gallery in Islamabad where 46 Sadequains were on display we distinctly remember coming out with a headache.

Such a subliminal power is often associated with the written word and not the (thousand) words of a picture but Sadequain (also a notable versifier and calligrapher) manages to blur the boundaries between the two.

This post is my humble tribute to the artist...

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As an art practitioner I work in a variety of mediums, what you see here are glimpses of my many creative projects. If you like or feel strongly something here please don't forget to comment

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