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May 4, 2018

Spiritual ecology of Lubna Jehangir’s universe


May 4, 2018

To say that Lubna Jehangir’s paintings are ‘feminist’ or ‘about women’ would limit the actual breadth and depth of the body of her recent work. Viewed as a whole, it is a visual torrent of different archetypal themes and ideas spilling over each other into multiple forms. This essentially inner, psychological and conceptual outpouring, lends an outward fluidity to the forms in a controlled and contained manner, for example, in the circle which recurs in many of the paintings. These inner/outer dynamics can be summed up in “Reflections and Deflections”. At one level, it cryptically suggests (to the viewer) that there is much more here than meets the eye; while at another, more personal level, it is the artist’s subjectivity expressing that there is more to her than what we may perceive as “I”.

All creativity, at one level, is autobiographical and to this extent, factors such as age and experience also inform the artistic endeavor as it evolves in tandem with the personal domain. As a woman, Lubna sees herself as someone who has survived difficult professional and personal emotional journeys, situations and experiences which many women find themselves entangled in as they try and negotiate their way in an overwhelmingly patriarchal society. Refreshingly, she does not subscribe to the subjectivity of a victim. If anything, she feels that she has shed a lot of negativity and emerged a stronger individual. Unlike many of her younger peers who give creative expression to their sense of rage, injustice and frustrations in a more direct and transparent manner, Lubna prefers to remain ‘backstage’ so to speak. Thus, at one level, as she says, “the entwined flowers and twigs, the colours alongside monochromatic treatment, represent the deceptiveness of my mannerism. It all looks colorful and attractive; yet there are barriers that protect from complete exposure.” This need for personal privacy should be respected by viewers and not become a distraction from perceiving much more substance to her art and explorations of the transpersonal arena of culture, symbols and archetypes. As such, it is a refreshing and invigorating change from the plethora of politically or personally focused, frequently depressing, subject matter of the oppression of women.

Lubna has come a long way from her initial pointillist monochromatic, almost tortured forms. Motifs such as trees, trunks, branches, entwined with the female form continue in a frequently full and packed canvas with little negative space. Simultaneously, there is now also much more color, a certain joyful but restrained vibrancy and a strong painterly expression of an expanding and complex conceptual field. The determined pointillist grimness has given way to arabesque flowing lines, a certain lightness of being which still remains intellectually anchored in a conceptual gravitas. Her paintings engage us not only at the emotional and visually attractive level, but also draw attention to important ideas and themes via accessing what has been called ‘deep culture’.

Within the realm of art by women, whether as protest or celebration, the female body has perhaps been over used to the point of banality. Despite the almost ubiquitous female presence in her paintings, if Lubna manages to escape the stereotypical, it is because she has attempted to move beyond the personal, towards the transpersonal dimensions of human existence including Nature itself, particularly from a spiritual perspective. Lubna Jahangir’s solo show that opens to public at Oceans Art Gallery in Lahore, evokes so many thoughts, ideas, and insights. Looking at the thirty-eight of her more recent paintings to be displayed there, one may get a sense of certain holistic message permeating the ambience that comes across so strongly through her creative work.

Her latest show is her fifth solo. The earlier four were held in Islamabad and Karachi in 2013, Lahore in 2016 and Karachi 2017. In addition, she also has over a dozen group shows in Lahore, Islamabad and Dubai debuting with the 2005 group show in Lahore. And with over 700 reviews to her credit, she is an artist to reckon with among her contemporaries, connoisseurs and clients alike.

She held solo shows at Jharoka Art Gallery, Islamabad, February 2013, Spaces Art Gallery, Karachi, November 2013, Oceans Art Gallery, Lahore, April 2016, and at Grandeur Art Gallery, January 2017. She too held group shows at Vogue Art Gallery, Lahore, 2009, Jaffery’s Gallery, Lahore, 2009, Dill Foundation Fund Raiser Show, Dubai, 2009, Collectors Galleria, Lahore, 2010, Nomad Art Gallery, Islamabad, 2011, Just Art, Karachi, 2016, Oceans Art Gallery, Karachi, 2016, Grandeur Art Gallery, Frere Hall, Karachi, 2017, Oceans Art Gallery, Lahore, 2017, Grandeur Art Gallery, Karachi, 2017, Just Art, Karachi, 2017, My Art World, Islamabad, 2017 and at Grandeur Art Gallery, Karachi, 2017. —Dr Durre S Ahmed

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