The City Never Sleeps, Exhibition Running

Perhaps the heading could be taken by many to be a pun on the 1962 Hollywood hit, “Satan never sleeps”, and to some extent it could be justified because the exhibition running currently at the VM Art Gallery, under the above theme, also documents the many satanic happenings going on alongside the more altruistic ones, round the clock. Who’d know better than us, Karachiites who are condemned to constantly digest news of the diabolical killings in town!

The exhibition which opened on Tuesday, has been themed, “The city never sleeps”, because of activity, both noble, and spine-chilling, going on round the clock It is supposed to depict the cycle of weeping and wailing of the loved ones of those dispatched into eternity by the hysterical killings and criminal activity in town, loved ones who are left to mourn their irreparable loss.

The exhibition is based on 26 works, oil paintings, and digital photographs by Hamza Ali, Aaiza Alam, Sahar Ghanchi, Khuda Bukhsh Abro, Shayaan Meer, Sara Najum, and Yamna Maqbool, adorning the walls of the gallery.

All the works are very profound comments on life, a poignant reflection on the lives, the travails of those countless among us who are condemned to live their lives in a sea of anonymity and then end their earthly sojourn totally unsung, uncared for., making a mockery of existence.

Hamza Ali, for one, is a versatile innovative artist with his digital images on photographic paper. He knows how to capture the spirit behind the digital work. His digital image on photographic paper with the Punjabi title, “Kaanwan meri ninder” (Ninder being Punjabi for sleep) depicts a bloated middle aged man, a ragamuffin, sleeping on a bench by the roadside with his belongings stowed all around him. Were we to traverse the city’s thoroughfares all day and all night, we’d find out that this is not all that rare a sight, homeless people, tramps having a snooze by the roadside, victims of the privations of life and the vagaries of circumstance.

However, there’s an abrupt change of mood in Ali’s works in the form of his “let there be light”, again a digital image on photographic paper, depicting a pop music group performing to a large cheering crowd and shafts of light pouring into the venue from all directions.

There’s Khuda Bukhsh Abro’s modern art in the form of expressionism. To the casual or less initiated viewer, it might just appear to be a random dab of colours, but as Abro, an artist working for a local English language daily, puts it, it is supposed to project art by the roadside rather than in art galleries, in real life. His works, totaling six, titled Poems I-VI, apparently just mere aimless strokes of the brush, are actually supposed the city’s collapsing walls, a series of graffiti superimposed on one another, and disheveled posters, a reflection of the disorganized pattern of activity so characteristic of big cities.

However, the most impressive and the one that could be most easily comprehended by a lay person are two works by a brilliant, charming young lady, Sahar Ghanchi. Her impressionistic paintings, Silent Mourning I and Silent Mourning II depict a face of a woman wailing with her head held between her hands. As Sahar puts it, the works are supposed to be a tribute to families who have lost loved ones, a commentary on the violence that stalks our city.

All the works on display have very profound messages to convey. All that is required to comprehend these is an overly fertile imagination, especially the more conventionally oriented art fans who certainly are an overwhelming majority.

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