With protruding iron slates and scrap lying around, the third floor of the Arts Council seemed like an ideal site for artist Haider Ali Naqvi’s latest exhibition titled ‘Conurbations’.
Revolving around the expansion of the city, the exhibition is a result of Naqvi’s three-month residency with Vasl Artists’ Association. The exhibit features different forms of art including work with metal, paintings, miniature drawings as well as moving images.
Producing art regarding the urban cityscape is not new to Naqvi who has previously used graphite to represent it. However, this time round, he has focused on how the city is expanding while also looking closely at the relations between environmental conditions and human development in forms of constructions.
The Arts Council’s third floor, which used to serve as a studio for a private channel in 2014, hasn’t been in use for the past four years, and provides an excellent backdrop for artwork about a city slowly decaying away.
Naqvi has also written some explanations on broken windows regarding the artwork. For instance, one of the glass shards from a window makes mention of the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation demolishing illegal constructions on amenity plots.
“I have been observing the city ever since I started my career and this is an extension of my previous work,” Naqvi said. “For three months, I have been documenting my observations which I come across during the residency at Vasl Artists’ Association.”
Naqvi lives in Federal B Area while the residency was in DHA Phase II extension. “I could feel a visible shift in the weather,” he said. Naqvi collected data from 18 towns, including population, population density as well as maps. Experimenting with a different art technique, he then placed new and shiny metal plates in different towns. “I observed how they oxidised with time and each area’s plate had a different appearance in accordance with its weather,” he explained.
At the exhibit, the framed metal plates were kept on cement stones surrounded by pipes, which again weren’t put specifically for the exhibit but were a part of the floor prior to the exhibition.
“The space was chosen by Vasl. What appears like props was already lying here, and it coincidently gelled well with my work which is about a growing city,” he said.
Representing the Vasl Artists’ Association, Veera Rustomji explained that the arts collective helps emerging artists by providing them a platform which gives them liberty to explore their creativity.
“Risks need support, especially financial support and Vasl makes sure that the artist need not worry about sustaining solely through their work,” she said. “We were able to get this space for it is an unconventional space. We should be activating more spaces for galleries instead of the typical ones in Clifton,” she added.
Speaking about the exhibit, Rustomji said that the artist was not commenting on the city rather it was a critical observation and the metal plates corroding with time offered an excellent parallel narrative to it. Naqvi, who has a BFA from the National College of Arts, Lahore, has exhibited both locally and internationally. The Conurbations exhibit continues till Friday.