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By Amra Ali | 4/14/2019 12:00:00 AM
It is said that music is a means of capturing the human experience that connects us to something larger than ourselves.

Witnessing Moeen Faruqi`s current solo show, New Memories, at Karachi`s Koel Gallery, it feels as if the musical rhythm of his early work has found a wider landscape for his depictions of urban life. The ihythm of jazz has been part of Faruqi`s visuals, serenading, weaving in and out of cityscapes, with distorted perspectives and figures that appear detached from their surroundings.

Faruqi`s show at Ali Imam`s Indus Gallery in 1993 set the tone for his subject matter. The imagery in those early canvases centred around the immediacy of the artist`s own home and people around him. One could see, for example, the tiles of his family home at Jamshed Road, windows looking into courtyards and neighbouring alleys and houses. He painted in oils and later acrylics and, perhaps because he was self-taught, he was free of the constraints of professional artists who get caught in the rhetoric of imagery and style. These visual stories narrate the connection between people and their private and social spaces.

The viewer identifies with them, especially as they convey urban energies.

While Faruqi conveyed the collective angst of Karachi in the 1990s, his canvases brought hope in the vibrant Kharadar (an old city area of Karachi) greens and the warm yellow-oranges. Full orchestras of colour, jazz blues and an abundance of black outlining, these canvases were also stories of people meeting mostly indoors, in private parties or get-togethers to find respite from the insanity on the streets.

He narrated his story, the surroundings and conversations through a strong interconnection of colour and form. It was articulated in his poetry as `the door to the balcony, the blue chair varnished by the sun` or `the sofa, a Matisse kind of red, envelops sounds of love`, in the published poem Bay Window In New Memories, there is a departure towards more simplified flat shapes. The bright colours act as the backdrop to ongoing conversations among a man and a woman. In painting s such as `Jamshed Road` and `Clifton Bridge` there is a new use of white against the coloured surroundings and one cannot help but read into the story the connectivity, or lack there of, between two people.

These anchors are found in different colours among varying shapes that bring instances of calm and the desire to let go of the figurative.

A large canvas in this show, `Rapture, Rupture`, is a response to sound and rhythm in earthy warmer tones, uncharacteristic of the artist`s palette. Music transcends time and touches the core, both in moments of grief and celebration.

This work detaches from the figurative and storytelling, as the artist consciously seeks the lyrical. The paintings drenched in blue, despite the portraits in the melancholic `Blue Series` carry an obvious connection to jazz blues, which centre on the emotive quality of sound. The blues recede in three striking portraits to give way to a colour field in light-hearted titles, `Deep Orange Moment`, `Medium Yellow Moment` and `Pale Yellow Moment.` This bright new light points to a greater reflective power and sense of being.

In his poem, Enactment, Farugi writes about, `A silent speech, through the muteness of colours and the swaying of lines, a tribute to the pigments and powders in our souls ` The artist has dedicated this exhibition to his late wife Mahvash.

`New Memories` is being displayed at Koel Gallery in Karachi from April 9 to April 23, 2019