Third Exhibition at Alhamra Art Gallery

Alhamra BuildingThere are few opportunities for budding artists in Pakistan to display or sell their work to the public. The Attic Studio is an initiative that tries to help rectify this problem.

Attic Studio is a collaborative residency programme started by a handful of graduating students from the National College of Arts (NCA). It was started in 2011 and is holding its third exhibition at the Alhamra Art Gallery. The display opened on Thursday and will go on till July 4.

The idea behind the project was to provide a platform to graduating students to display their work to the public. Nyrah Mushtaq, one of the artists from the Attic Studio this year, told the Daily Times that they began this project during their thesis year. “What we wanted to provide was this place where we could initiate a dialogue between the art industry,” she added.

“We wish to invite graduating art students from all over Lahore to come to this single platform and make use of it to forward their career. There are around 200 fine art students graduating every year and just four months down the lane, barely 20 of them are seen holding exhibitions and that too a minimum of two exhibitions a year. The rest almost disappear from the art scene,” she said.

This year eight students displayed their work anonymously. They arranged an atelier (kaarkhana) kind of a system, where each artist was working on a different aspect of the same thing. All the work that was displayed was based on eight photographs taken by different people.

“Each of us brought an image to the table and were to base our work on those images only. The idea behind putting this restriction was to create recurring visual characters and see if we can create meaning out of it and create something out of this present austerity in language,” said Madhya Leghari, another graduating student from the Attic Studio.

Another artist, Saad Ahmed said, “We hope to continue this project in the future, where not only graduating students from NCA are displaying their work but students of fine arts from all over Lahore are invited to make use of this platform.”

They highlighted the problem faced by countless fine arts students in Pakistan. “The problem is that the industry is monopolised by a few known names and they are the only ones doing exhibition and selling their work. It is very hard for upcoming artists to break through this as the main art galleries do not agree to display the work of new artists,” Madyha added. Quddus Mirza agreeing with these young artists said, “It is a great initiative. More projects like this should be taken up. I think art galleries should take a lesson from here and allow new artists to display their work because some of these have immense talent.”

He added that art galleries should not be run as profit-making shops but should have a vision in finding new talent and providing a platform to artists. “This is their job,” he said.

Madyha also talked about her work, saying that the girl in the train compartment with half her face in light a and the other half in darkness represented the illusion of control – “one moment you are suspended in one place and the other, you’re at a different place altogether”.

Each of the eight artists, which included Madyha Laghari, Nyrah Mushtaq, Minaa Mohsin, Zahrah Ehsan, Anum Lasharie, Zahid Mayo, Osama Khan and Saad Ahmad worked on a different aspect of the photographs they were working on. For instance, if one focused on imagery, the other took up the theme.

The artists especially went to art studios run by various renowned artists of Pakistan to invite students, still learning art. Hence, the crowd consisted of all sorts of people. Nyrah said, “We did this because firstly, we wanted to let these students know that there is a platform for them. Secondly, the crowd at most art exhibitions usually consists of more or less the same people. We wanted to change this and make it more public.” Renowned Pakistani artists R M Naeem and Quddus Mirza were present at the inauguration of the exhibition.


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