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November 18, 2019

Investigating the subject of water as an idea and as a metaphor


November 18, 2019

The Koel Gallery is hosting Farrukh Adnan, Noor Ali Chagani, Noorjehan Bilgrami, Rasheed Araeen, Sohail Zuberi, Usman Saeed and Zeerak Ahmed’s art exhibition titled ‘Beyond the Waters’ until November 21.

Quoting the show’s curator Amra Ali, a statement issued by the gallery reads: “The curatorial narrative investigates the subject of water as an idea and as a metaphor. Embedded in the identity of spaces, this gathering of approaches archives individual and collective histories.

“The gallery becomes an uneven landscape, where we meander into conversations that are acutely and humbly aware of the proximity to the ocean. These works seem bound by idealism and freedom to speak from the outside of prescribed notions, as the art is vested in the cross-disciplinary.

“The source defies spectacle. The thought, a line, imagery, the resonance of a sound, and text celebrate a bare simplicity and converse to hold the structure.

“This exhibition pays tribute to Rasheed Araeen and draws upon his early paintings (of 1950s and 1960s) of the water at the Sandspit Beach and the Keamari harbour in Karachi, and other works, which became significant anchors to his later abstractions and structural formations.

“The curatorial aims to provide a reflective space on his ideas on water in his work (book) — ‘Art Beyond Art, Ecoaesthetics: A Manifesto for the 21st Century’ — to initiate a reading based on this interface with a new generation of artists invited from Karachi and Lahore, whose approaches embrace alternate ways of making and reading art, close to the cycles of nature and reflecting the fluidity of water.”

Noor Ali Chagani

Chagani received his BS degree in computer science in Karachi and then later BFA in miniature painting from the National College of Arts in Lahore.

He has since exhibited in solo and group exhibitions in notable institutions around the world, including the Stanford University’s Cantor Arts Centre, California; the Katonah Museum of Art, New York; the Abrons Arts Centre, New York; the Plazzo Mora, Venice; the Institut du Monde Arabe, France; the Casa Arabe, Spain; the Victoria & Albert Museum, United Kingdom; the Pacific Asia Museum, California; and the Devi Art Foundation, India.

Chagani was nominated for the Victoria & Albert Museum’s prestigious Jameel Art Prize in 2011. He was awarded with guest residency in the Rijks Academy, Netherlands in 2012, the Riwaq Art Space Residency in Bahrain in 2013, and the Jameel Prize Residency in the Victoria & Albert Museum in 2017.

His artwork has been featured in numerous publications. He was most recently featured in ‘Top Emerging Artists to Watch in 2018’. The artist lives and works in Lahore.

Farrukh Adnan

Adnan received his bachelor’s in visual communication design from the National College of Arts in Lahore in 2009. He completed his master’s in art & design studies from the Beaconhouse National University with the prestigious scholarship of the South Asia Foundation’s Madanjeet Singh Institute for South Asian Studies in 2014.

He teaches photography at the National College of Arts, and drawing and history of art at the National College of Business Administration & Economics in Lahore.

His select exhibitions include ‘Earth Cover’ at the Koel Gallery, Karachi (2019); ‘Excavations’ at the Rohtas 2 Gallery, Lahore (2018); ‘Enigmatic Spaces’ at the Koel Gallery, Karachi (2017); ‘Museum of Wasted Love’ with Mahboob Jokhio at the Full Circle Gallery, Karachi (2016); and ‘Unfolding Matters’ at the Sanat Initiative, Karachi (2015).

Usman Saeed

Titled ‘gardenfinds’, Saeed’s work focuses on subjects coming from nature. In response to writer Amra Ali’s curatorial note for this show, his two new works study notions of light and darkness in relation to water: ‘gardenfinds 59’ is a photo book of a monsoon-clad Ravi River around Shahdara in Lahore, and ‘gardenfinds 60’ is a watercolour on paper of water, trees and birds.

For Saeed, his alma maters — the National College of Arts and the Royal College of Art, London — continue to nourish his multidisciplinary practice. His work is included in the collections of the Cicada Press, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia and the Smith College Museum of Art, Northampton, Massachusetts.

Rasheed Araeen

Araeen is a civil engineer, artist, writer and inventor (received from an international patent in 2003). As an artist, he began his journey in 1953 and continued to pursue art while studying civil engineering at the NED Engineering College in Karachi.

After doing some important works in Karachi, seminal to his later pursuits, he left for London in 1964 and has lived there since. In 1965 he pioneered minimalist sculpture, representing perhaps the only minimalism in Britain.

After having been active in various groups supporting liberation struggles, democracy and human rights, he began to write in 1975, and then started publishing his own journals: Black Phoenix (1978), Third Text (1987) and Third Text Asia (2008).

He has also established online versions of Third Text in Cape Town, South Africa, entitled Third Text Africa, and Spanish language Tercer Texto in Lima, Peru — both free to their readers.

He has curated two important exhibitions — ‘The Essential Black’ (1987) and ‘The Other Story’ (Hayward Gallery, 1989) — and is a recipient of three honorary doctorates from the universities of Southampton, East London and Wolverhampton.

He is now directing a project to revise and produce the most comprehensive and inclusive history of art in post-war Britain. He has published an autobiographical book ‘Making Myself Visible’, comprising texts and visual images, and ‘Art Beyond Art’.

His writing has mainly been published in Third Text, but also in Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Holland, Belgium, France, Germany and Spain in their own languages.

He is currently involved in bringing different disciplines together by persuading artists, scientists, engineers, social scientists, philosophers, and so on, to work together in looking at and solving social and ecological problems resulting from climate change.

While still living in London, he also spends some time in Karachi, where he has since 2010 re-established his studio and produced new work that was initially shown at his mini-retrospective ‘Homecoming’ (VM Gallery, 2014-15), curated by Amra Ali.

An extensive retrospective of Araeen opened in 2018 at the Van Abbemuseum, Eidenhoven and toured the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead, the George Museum of Contemporary Art, Moscow, and MAMCO (the Musee d’art modern et contemporain), Geneva.

Noorjehan Bilgrami

Noorjehan is a multidisciplinary artist, curator and educationist. She is grounded in the traditional crafts of Pakistan and her atelier Koel spearheaded the revival of handloom weaving, hand-block printing and the use of natural dyes.

The Koel Gallery has provided a vibrant platform for new and emerging artists, and Noorjehan has curated numerous exhibitions for the gallery. Her own art practice is meditative, exploring issues of inner reflection through a vocabulary that is intensely personal, while it touches upon universal themes.

She has held numerous solo shows and participated in exhibitions in Pakistan, the US, Australia, Korea, Sri Lanka, South Africa and India. She was the artist in residence at the Cicada Press (2015) and at the Islamic Museum of Art, Design & Culture, Shangrila, Doris Duke Foundation, Honolulu, Hawaii, USA (2017).

At the culmination of the residency, her solo exhibition titled ‘Under the Molsri Tree’ was held at the Islamic Gallery at the Honolulu Museum of Art.

Sohail Zuberi

Zuberi’s multidisciplinary practice is a commentary on Karachi’s urban developments, dichotomies and disparities. His ongoing research on the changing ecologies of a small stretch of beach in Karachi, manifested in a solo show titled ‘Archaeologies of Tomorrow’ in 2018.

He was featured in the inaugural edition of the Karachi Biennale 2017. Along with his professional practice, Zuberi has been associated with the academia for the past 18 years.

He was the head of the communication design department at the Indus Valley School of Art & Architecture from 2012 to 2015, and has taught at the University of Karachi and the Textile Institute of Pakistan.

Zuberi is also a former trustee of the Vasl Artists’ Collective, serves on the board of the Pakistan Chowk Cultural Centre, Karachi, and works as a design consultant with Tali, a contemporary craft design brand. He has recently been nominated as the curator for the International Public Art Festival 2020.

Zeerak Ahmed

Zeerak, also known as Slowspin, is a sound artist and curator. Exploring expressions of the elusive medium of sound through voice, she produces sound sculptures, installations and performances.

She received her BA in studio art and political science from the Hiram College, US in 2012, and her MFA in creative practice from the Transart Institute (Plymouth University) in 2017.

Since 2012 she has exhibited and performed at several local and international venues. She was assistant curator for the inaugural Karachi Biennale 2017, and now serves as assistant professor at the Indus Valley School of Art & Architecture.

Amra Ali

Amra is an independent art critic, researcher and curator based in Karachi. She holds a BFA from the Department of Visual Arts, University of Ottawa, Canada. She was a Nieman Affiliate at the Harvard University and has studied drawing, art history and criticism.

She has been contributing reviews and issue-based writing for newspapers and publications in Pakistan and internationally since 1990. She was a co-founder and senior editor of NuktaArt, a first international bi-annual art publication from Karachi. She was secretary of the Pakistan section of the International Art Critics Association, Paris from 2000 to 2014.

During that time she was on the coordination team for the international seminar titled ‘Mapping the Change’, and on the curatorial team for the Takhti exhibition (2001). She also conducted workshops for young art critics on national level in affiliation with the British Council of Pakistan.

She conducted a series of film screenings for a year, bringing film collectives together in collaboration with the Goethe Institut, Karachi. She has edited the publication ‘Homecoming’ (Rasheed Araeen, VM Gallery, 2014), and curated a retrospective by the same name in 2014-15 at the VM Gallery.

Her chapter titled ‘Ruptures of Rasheed Araeen in the Politics of Visual Arts: For a New Discourse in Pakistan’ has been published in ‘Intersections of Contemporary Art, Anthropology and Art History in South Asia: Decoding Visual Worlds’, which was edited by Dev Nath Pathak & Sasanka Parera (2019).

Her curatorial works include ‘Objects We Behold’, Gandhara Art, 2018; ‘Sabza O Gul’, Chawkandi Art, 2014; and ‘I Am Not Alice My Dear’ and ‘This is Not Wonderland’, Chawkandi Art, 2015.

— Photos courtesy Koel Gallery