Friday January 27, 2023

Holding a dialogue with strangers in a non-temporal existence

By News Desk
July 10, 2022

The Sanat Initiative recently hosted an art exhibition, titled ‘The Extraordinary Ordinariness of the Human Encounter’, which featured works by Madiha Hyder. The show was curated by Nafisa Rizvi.

“As the world hobbles back to some semblance of order and normalcy after almost three years of chaos resulting from the distress of isolation, trepidation and loss, artists, like everyone else, are learning original ways to communicate and connect with those around them,” the catalogue issued by the gallery quotes the curator as saying.

“Madiha Hyder’s new body of work is a conversational dialogue of sorts, a mode of communication tool, if you may, that she uses to reach out to people around her.

“’I’m not an extrovert to begin with. It takes me a while to connect to people. I look for common ground and then if I find a space I’m comfortable in, I find myself exploring and taking the time to build trust and rapport.

“’That is in fact the way I address any work of art, the blank canvas or sheet of white paper becoming my explorative space of inquiry. It’s where my mind wanders.’

“But all said, Madiha Hyder’s portraits and formalist images of people she has met while teaching at an art school are not just the superficial renderings of an artist in control of her craft.

“Surely there is a comfort in facing the faithful representation of a person, a moment of pure recognition. But these are people we don’t know. Yet we believe the authenticity of her paintings because they are flawed individuals and may even make us uncomfortable due to their idiosyncrasies. How very recognizable is that?

“’When I see someone with a quirk or an eccentricity, or someone who stands out in a crowd due to their distinctiveness, no matter how small, I am drawn to the person’s energy.

“’I may never meet the person or talk to them. But in my mind’s eye, I imagine having a conversation with them; I perceive their associations, the possible ruptures and fractures in their lives; who and what they identify with, their vices and virtues.

“’I create a scenario in which they live a life. I take my time and get to “know” them in a sense. This is how I am able to paint my subjects with more accuracy and precision, imbued with a non-temporal existence.’

“In a sense then there is a dichotomy in her truths. There is the rigorous formalism of her medium and the simultaneous playfulness of her deconstruction with the narrative.

“She has not made the slightest effort to involve herself with the identity of the people in her storytelling beyond her engagement with them because the narrative is of her own choosing and it will play out in her universe according to her rules.

“Andrew Wyeth’s painting ‘Christina’s World’ is not better or worse because we have, or not, discovered Christina’s true identity. It’s a great painting because of its structure and the rendering of its Arcadian aura.

“Madiha’s paintings are engaging works because they draw the viewer into the ether of her choosing. How many storytellers today are able to do that?”

Madiha Hyder was born in 1983, and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in fine arts from the Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture (IVSAA), Karachi, in 2006.

During her four years in art school, she was formally trained in painting and photography. She has a proclivity for representation; the factual, unembellished path to visual expression is the position she prefers.

With an inclination towards realism, she addresses current socio-political issues of her country as well as explores more personal narratives through the medium of portraiture. Her paintings show traces of everyday reality and tell stories about the contradictions of our times.

Her paintings have been exhibited in a number of group shows in various galleries in Pakistan since she graduated. Her first solo show was in May 2016 at the Canvas Gallery in Karachi.

She was commended for her contribution towards the field of art in Pakistan at the LadiesFund Women’s Awards 2017. While continuing her own practice, she conducts art workshops privately and is part of the adjunct faculty at the IVSAA.