x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Emerging artists from Pakistan showcased at Lawrie Shabibi in Dubai

The up-and-coming talents in Lawrie Shabibi gallery's new exhibition all demonstrate an exacting, disciplined approach.

Adeel Uz Zafar translates minute details in his etchings, including Eight Legged Freak. Courtesy Lawrie Shabibi
Adeel Uz Zafar translates minute details in his etchings, including Eight Legged Freak. Courtesy Lawrie Shabibi

Adeel Uz Zafar etches an ultra-detailed image into the most mundane of materials. Daubing thick black acrylic on to linoleum imitation tiles, he found that when this material is scratched deep into its surface, a stark white scar is revealed.

So the wool-wrapped, bandaged-up arachnid, pictured here in all its details and strands, has been etched directly into these cheap tiles - no charcoal, no pencil. "Being able to translate this minutiae of detail on to this sort of scale; we haven't seen this technique with other artists," says Will Lawrie, the co-director of Lawrie Shabibi. The gallery is hosting a group show of 11 young and midcareer Pakistani artists, titled Stop, Play, Pause, Repeat, which opens this evening.

Lawrie met more than 30 artists in Pakistan on a research trip earlier this year, and returned exuberant about the talent that he saw there. "There's a slightly older generation of Pakistani artists that have really broken out - like Rashid Rana and Imran Qureshi - but we were looking for younger artists, those in their late 20s and early 30s who we thought are doing some very interesting work.

"A lot of them have the basis of a very good art education and also teach in Pakistan, which is their bread and butter. There's also a good network of artists there who work alongside each other in some way."

Stop, Play, Pause, Repeat showcases some of the artists that Lawrie met while in Karachi and Lahore. Meticulous practice is the underlying connection. "Several of these artists studied miniature painting, which is a very rigorous process, and have taken that rigour through to different media and techniques," he says.

Ahsan Jamal has some of that exactitude in his style of painting and working. Goats are his subject matter: they occupy epic or pastoral scenes of hillsides and lofty celestial kingdoms.

Over a bad line to Pakistan, Jamal says that these goats represent the sacrificial aspect of day-to-day life in his country - people are forced give up a part of themselves so as to maintain some status.

"Sacrifice does not just have to do with death," he says. "It can be your emotions, your time and how that is sacrificed daily - the result is frustration."

The tension shimmers beneath otherworldly, golden skies in Jamal's work. These parable-like scenes seem to surround his feeble goats, whose ominous rectangular pupils belie a humanly pathos.

Another curious painter represented in the exhibition is Salman Toor. From the works we've seen ahead of the opening, he's got an absurdist eye for some of the day-to-day scenes of contemporary Pakistan. In an untitled work, a man in a pink shalwar kameez leads two well-fed Alsatians through a middle class neighbourhood. A couple of guards in green berets watch on, smiling yet bearing sticks, and are both dressed as shabbily as the dog-walker. Behind them towers a mansion, the incongruous trappings of a wealthy elite. Who are these men? All the hired help, protecting men and dogs?

Another image by Toor shows a flash mob of labourers, dancing in eerie synchronicity before a Tudor-esque development of some fancy suburb in the country.

The success of the show will be clearer this evening, but there's certainly a refreshing raft of new names from a sadly overlooked yet firm hotbed of talent in South Asia.

Until October 25 at Lawrie Shabibi, Unit 21 Alserkal Avenue, Al Quoz Dubai. Call 04 346 9906 or visit www.lawrieshabibi.com

clord@thenational.ae