Changing Face of Art

Time doesn’t stand still and like an ever-rolling stream sweeps away all forms of activity to replace it by something new. All spheres of activity, all human pursuits undergo changes as time rolls along. Art too is no exception.

The more conventional or the more conservative may be mystified by modern art forms or at a loss to appreciate them either because they may not have an imagination fertile enough to connect apparently the most unrelated of aspects or they just may not be receptive enough to anything new but modern art has its own merits.

For those who grew up to appreciate the art of John Constable or Thomas Gainsborough or, for that matter even Picasso, the present art forms like digital prints or situational art would be absolutely alien but it is the art today. Just ask the younger generation.

On Monday evening, the Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture was the venue of such an exhibition, where the school’s current students and the alumni put up a show aptly titled “Collaborate”.

Titled Shades of Frere, exhibits 1, 2, and 3 were of a photocollage – photographs of various aspects of the city’s popular landmark Frere Hall, supplemented by cut-outs to give a three-dimensional effect. This kind of art did not exist a century ago or even three decades ago.

Then there were the digital prints. One of these, titled “Summer of 2069”, depicted a dazzling slacks- and T-shirt-clad young lady and an equally debonair gentleman picnicking by the seaside, with expressions of extreme bliss that come with the purest form of love. This, thankfully enough, was the old-fashioned realism school of art with no weird lines or protrusions.

Two more digital prints were interesting. One depicted a young woman with shoulder-length bobs, a tight blouse and tight slacks, titled “Umrao Jaan Ada”, and a big rotund figure, a cherubic face with ferocious eyes and a menacing posture as if to strike someone, most aptly titled “Maula Jat”.

The piece that called most to an overly fertile imagination was one with a rectangular platform on the floor with maps of Karachi dating back to 1954. Above it were 11 “recycled” teapots suspended from the ceiling. The idea was to depict how time changes things and yet, paradoxically enough, so many things refuse to capitulate to the ravages of time and stay constant.

The idea was to depict Nusserwanjee, the area and the building named after famous trader and businessman Jamshed Nusserwanjee. The area has been witness to the umpteen vicissitudes of time and the site of the present Indus Valley School is also part of Nusserwanjee.

While the maps depict the changes at the location over time, the teapots are supposed to be connotative of the tea that has been consumed by all, patrician and plebian, since then and how tea has been an inseparable daily activity of people’s lives, whether then or today.

The item that came like a whiff of fresh air was, however, the musical programme which followed the exhibition. Noman Farooqi, an alumnus of the school, presented four numbers to the astute accompaniment of the tabla and the guitar, with his deep, mellifluous voice. The first two numbers, most meticulously rendered, were semi-classical in nature, while another was a Sufi spiritual, “Allah Allah kar bhahiya, Allah hi se dar bhahiya”. His performance was deeply appreciated by the audience.


Artists are thought to be individuals who like to work in isolation or in a private zone far from the public eye. They need their own space to give shape to inchoate ideas and only after giving them the final touches that they put their artworks on display. This is why artists generally shy away from working in groups. But when they do, they come up with some startling results for reasons best known to them. This was observed at the fifth alumni show of the Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture graduates titled Collaborate which opened at the school’s gallery on Monday.

Artworks of more than 40 artists, made either in pairs or groups, touch on a variety of subjects done in different media. The topics range from modern-day socio-political issues to personal predicaments to civic life.

Emaan Mahmud and Essa Malik use digital prints to draw attention to the fact that relationships witnessed from an outsider’s perspective can provide fodder to a creative person to come up with imaginative interpretations. They have set their image in a futuristic timeframe and by using the water imagery have prevented it from looking outlandish. The end result is pretty impressive.

Sarah Anjum and Sahar Ghanchi have opted for a more traditional art form making a sullen face which depicts not just a character but an era. They have intriguingly titled their piece ‘Coming Together’ (acrylic paints, nails on Lasani board). The use of nails on the artwork serves a twofold purpose: it adds a distinct shade to the whole picture and highlights the pain of the character.

Humayun Memon and Ali Reza Dossal intelligently employ photographic art and illustrations to underscore the element of puzzlement which human beings often experience despite receiving crystal-clear signals. These signals are usually received by virtue of the visual sense, the eye to be specific. But even then sometimes the puzzles remain unsolved.

The exhibition will continue until Feb 16.

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