Symbols and images at Canvas Art Gallery

One of the many purposes of employing symbolism in a work of art is to refrain from stating the obvious. Another is not to present an everyday, but nonetheless important, issue through realistic forms of expression, because it might take away the seriousness of the subject.

An exhibition of the latest works by three artists — Naveed Sadiq, Ahsan Jamal and Madiha Sikandar — is under way at the Canvas Art Gallery. On surface, the participating artists’ exhibits do not seem to have a common feature running through the exhibition, but a closer inspection will suggest that apart from a few other things (such as self-exploration) their creative
pursuits are primarily a quest for finding individual’s connection to the society one is part of.

Culture plays an important role in the display. The symbols that the artists have used, one way or another, point to cultural norms and their application to individuals and groups. Naveed Sadiq’s ‘Na Laro II’ (tea stain, gold leaf, gouache on wasli) is a cogent example of it. His ‘Sabbar’ (colour pencil on paper) belongs to the same group but is aesthetically more appealing. The
gold leaf touch lends lightness to the gravity of the situation that is what perhaps the artist wants society to evolve as.

The first thing that comes to mind after seeing an image of a goat is ‘sacrifice’. It’s a sacrificial animal that implies it is mild in nature and can be dealt with at will.

But Ahsan Jamal handles the symbol in other ways. Giving his works the title ‘History of a Portrait’ and using charcoal on paper to depict the goat divests the artwork of colour, and this is where the cloudiness factor comes in. The artist wants the viewer to see the dark side to the picture. The goat is a domesticated animal, something that you develop an affinity with.

Madiha Sikandar tells a coming-of-age story. For her with ‘Pockets Full of Poses’ (watercolor and gold on arches paper) the child seems to have grown up. However, some part of its childhood is still there. It may be masked or garbed, which is for the viewer to find out.

The exhibition will continue till April 11.


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