The human memory has remained an almost instinctive subject of reference for great poets and writers throughout the history of literature.
Thomas Hardy and Robert Frost see the unique properties of poetry as a genre in which certain phenomena, people and places might be remembered, if not preserved. Down a memory lane of my own, I can recall the beautiful feelings associated with reading the novel: A Pair of Blue Eyes by Thomas Hardy. There was a unique depiction of memory in the novel: touching the element of romanticism, laced with pathos.
The exhibition, Soulful Expressions, reveals a similar artistic process by eight young artists: Maliha Matin, Maryam Qazi, Tahseen Khan, Urwatul Wosqa, Aiman Jamil, Asif Hussain, Dure Shahwar and Mahnoor Khan. Their works rise from the depths of their memories and everyday experiences. They place a viewer in a meditative, trance-like state. One finds an unusual blend of personal, almost memoir-ish narrative in the work.
Aiman Jamil’s work has an element of “the then, and now”. Revisiting the precise moment through the construction of a memory, she sentimentally paints artworks that draw on nostalgia and the way one stores and distorts memory. Being rendered in monochromatic tones and the image of wilted flowers add a mood of pathos. It captures the fleeting nature of human life and the beautiful moments once enjoyed. The flowers that once blossomed with beauty and fragrance wilt and die to represent the fragility and the swift passage of life to death.
Asif Hussain represents “confined souls” in his paintings. Rendered in oil on canvas, the paintings feature bold reds, blues, stark white, magenta and orange colours which also add irony to the representation of female form. It is seemingly competent but some hidden power suppresses its voice. The symbol of an ajrak (Sindhi block printing on shawl) tied tightly round the mouth is used as a metaphor to represent female suppression in the culture. Alternative, one can associate the image with the artist’s memory of some painful moment. Women in the work are forced to seal their lips and bow in submission. There is a certain mystery about the canvases that is absolutely tantalizing.
According to Dure Shahwar her work is: “An abstract interpretation of memories that involves experience…The unconscious mind is the reservoir of feelings, thoughts, urges and memories that are outside of our conscious awareness.”
Mahnoor Khan’s work represents surreal visuals with the title “self obsessions”. She recalls the “comforting” memory that reveals a moment in finding solace in one’s self.
Tahseen Khan’s compositions take the audience to another level of awareness through her depiction of memory. She touches the topic of Western influence prevailing amongst the youth. Through her work, she stresses the view that wearing Western attire will not force her away from her own cultural norms and practices.
For Maryam Qazi, the memory of being in “isolation” is an asset that helps a person reflect and know more about him/herself”. There is a meditative quality in her work rendered in dark hues of reds, oranges, blues and bold black.
Urwatul Wosqa’s work revolves around her own memories and experiences of certain moments that she finds disturbing. She relates the unjust impositions and restraints that she had to bear for wearing hijab.
The artists in the show recall and relate both personal and collective memories. They want viewers to delve into the process and cherish their own experiences. Together, they become a whole and offer a new world to the audience. The show is being hosted by Ejaz Art Gallery, Lahore.
The writer is an art critic and artist based in Lahore