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By Aziz Sohail | 5/6/2018 12:00:00 AM
A poetic and thoughtful group exhibition titled Solitude, held at the Koel Gallery and curated by Salima Hashmi, remarkably transformed the space of the art gallery itself. The exhibition took as its departure point a poem Tanhai (solitude) by Hashmi`s father Faiz Ahmed Faiz. The curator expands upon her inspiration by looking at how poets interpret our world. She brings her personal experiences and relationship with Faiz to discuss his life where he bore witness to sorrow and `transformed it into song and metaphor.` For the curator then, Solitude is a productive space for one to produce work and think constructively about our present.

Some of the most thoughtful works were from Malcolm Hutcheson`s series `The Angeleopiers` in which he documents the Hijra community of Lahore through his poetic and sobering photographs. By creating fantastical and idealistic backdrops referencing historic aspirations around photography,the artist has documented individuals through portraiture. Many of them gaze directly at the viewer and the years of their toil and loneliness emerge as scars that they bear. Yet, within this solitude, they also form new bonds of community as is evident in their relationships with one another, seen in a photograph titled `Joobi, Madam Nargis, Sheeba, Laila, Sherzadi and Benazir` where they affectionately and closely group together. As bonds of family break, new ones are formed in order to sustain oneself. The artist names each individual in his work through the title, making their presence central to his practice.

Abid Aslam takes on a more abstract approach to the concept where he uses his training in Mughal and Persian miniature to `recompose` it on canvas in geometric forms. This is seen most directly in the work`Tanhai` where the viewer gazes upon a gold leaf canvas which envelopes a black rectangular centre. Indicating the void through the metaphor of solitude itself, it is surrounded by dots set in a sort of symphony. Each of these holes, punched through the canvas, exist in singularity but also in relationship to each other and seem to evoke a sort of musical notation in itself commenting on solitude as not a vacuum but a context within a larger belonging.

In tandem with the theme of the exhibition, the curator utilised the possibilities of the space to evoke moments of reflection for the visitor.

Upon entrance, the viewer was greeted to a deep yellow wall for Wardha Shabbir`s intricately rendered paintings playing on nature, geometry and spirituality. This was complemented towards the end of the exhibition with the creation of a private room for her video installation, `Daira` which explored the infinite possibility of a deep blue sky as a means to understand our own presence on earth. In this regard, the viewer was able to navigate the space on their own terms and reflect upon the artworks on display such as on the layered and complex paintings of Natasha Malik expanding upon the architecture of home as evoked through nostalgia and oppression. The accompanying label, texts and artists` statements allowed for a more cohesive interaction between viewer and artist.

Unfortunately, most of the statements seemed to be a general commentary on their practice, rather than the relationship of their work to the theme of the exhibition itself.

More cohesion between the statements would have allowed the viewer to interpret the context of the diverse works on display more easily.

`Solitude` was exhibited at the Koel Gallery, Karachi from April 10 April 19, 2018