Visiting Aan Gandhara Art Space in Karachi to experience ‘Reexamine Retrace’, a printmaking project conceived by R.M Naeem (of Studio R.M) and Adeel uz Zafar, was indeed a breath of fresh air. It showcased awe-inspiring art pieces by Pakistan’s most renowned artists.
As I stood there, mesmerised by a painting that had me spellbound, while I struggled to comprehend why, a kind lady with a warm aura stood next to me, observing the same work I had my eyes fixated on. And then, naturally, an exchange of ideas took place. This ended in a beautiful conversation, purely based on art and life. The connection that I felt with my surroundings and how the holistic experience made me think cannot be experienced looking at art on a digital screen. The said painting was by Munawar Ali Syed, and the beautiful person I got a chance to converse with was Nasreen Askari.
There is no denying the extent to which social media has changed how we consume art; these platforms that encourage social sharing has also profoundly impacted how art is being promoted.
Owing to instant sharing and particularly the art-selfie culture, it is not uncommon to see people sharing and experiencing art through their devices. Caught up in the fury of taking the perfect Instagrammable photo, they often do not have the mindfulness to engage with art candidly. According to Adeel himself, “While it is true that new digital art forms have created a market, digital platforms can’t do justice to traditional arts that crave attention from all your sense. Especially, works of art that offer great depth and detail.”
More often than not, art is photographed and shared because of how the photo looks or matches the profile style, colours and barely out of genuine appreciation for art.
While it is true that the omnipresent culture has opened channels for social and political art to take centre stage and provided the corporations to use art as a means to generate additional profits, direct dialogue with original work has taken a backseat.
With art exhibitions going digital, it is hard to justify their beauty when consumed virtually. Most promoters and artists believe that when an artist uses a medium and how their art is positioned, it has all do with feeling the texture and the real-life characteristics of the art piece.
According to Malika Abbass, who is a curator at Aan Gandhara Art Space, “My aim is to always highlight the artist’s work, the way it ought to be. I want people to appreciate it for what it is while they are there, as appose to just offering them eye candy.”
Capturing a wider audience through a social platform doesn’t allow visitors to be inside a museum and experiencing it. According to international trends art installations are being altered to make them more Instagram worthy.
Your excitement grows when you move from one hall to another. Seeing the works of the likes of Ahmed Javed and Rehana Mangi live is truly phenomenal. Showcasing a calmer self on the surface while you experience extreme butterflies in your stomach. I wanted to scream and jump, and just to let you guys in on a secret, “even though you are not supposed to touch any of it, I couldn’t help but brush my fingers against some of them.” Can you do that through your device? I don’t think so. The little details, a couple of dots here and there, or the pressing of paper in unique places is something you will miss if you keep looking in that screen. But of course, in this digital era, you find out about such events via online social platforms; which gives you a reason to be grateful.
According to Nageen Shaikh, an art historian and critic, “Printmaking is a scrupulous process that demands perseverance. To achieve a successful print, a medium is used as a ‘matrix’ that can create multiple copies (or prints) of a design incorporated atop the matrix’s surface. Printmaking never left the country’s art scene since its renaissance in the ’70s in Pakistan, however, traditional printmaking techniques as opposed to screen printing has experienced a dip in the past few decades. Since printmaking is still practiced by some contemporary artists, Re-examine/Retrace can predict a vigorous resurgence, though this desired and dynamic continuation of the art, if not a full-blown comeback.”
If you are an art-lover, who happens to be in Karachi and want to ignite your senses with pure art, you must visit Aan Gandhara Art Space; and art galleries located in the same vicinity.
The group exhibition featured works of Adeel Uz Zafar, Ahmed Javed, Ahsan Jamal, Ahsan Javaid, Aamir Habib, Farhat Ali, Farrukh Adnan, Haider Ali Naqvi, Irfan Gul Dahri, Jamil Baloch, Madiha Hyder, Muhammad Zeeshan, Munawar Ali Syed, Muzzaumil Raheel, Naima Dadabhoy, Noman Siddiqui, Noor Ali Chagani, Rehana Mangi, R.M Naeem, Sana Arjumand, Sophia Balagamwala, Syed Hussain, Syed Danish Ahmed, Wardha Shabbir and Zahid Mayo.