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November 3, 2010 / the s.a. project

are these ALL your colours?

Imran Qureshi’s solo show ‘All are the colour of my heart’ opened on the 1st of November 2010 at Rohtas 2 (yes again Rohtas 2). This post is on a discussion that took place amongst a small gathering 2 days later in the MA studios at NCA.

image courtesy Amina Ansari image courtesy Amina Ansari

image courtesy Amina Ansari image courtesy Amina Ansari

Image courtesy Amina Ansari

In the various views discussed on Imran Qureshi’s show many interesting points were raised. Opinions ranged from one end to the other – some liked the show a lot; others expressed bored indifference. These opposing views gave way to questions on repetition and sincerity of an artist’s intent in contrast to technical ability and a display of skill.

How important is it for an artist to constantly reinvent themselves? One argued ‘it is essential’, the other replied ‘not always’. These questions, though simply worded, are so important and so potent in today’s contemporary art practice.

I feel that the context of the work in question is vital. While I enjoyed the rendering of the work, which was beautifully and impeccably finished, I found the execution a step backwards from Imran Qureshi’s previous concerns.  Possibly the most exciting aspect could have been the framing of the work. I loved it. But I realised I was greatly opposed to the fact that the work was framed and ‘beautified’ for a gallery exhibit in a gallery space.

Let me present a broader viewpoint to explain why. It has been a bone of contention with me for a long time that we never get to see the works of many major contemporary artists in Pakistan anymore – some examples being Imran Qureshi, Bani Abidi, Rashid Rana, etc. Many reasons are cited with costs and market being primary. All said and done, this is an area that is greatly neglected. If these artists (some of whom have produced brilliant works) are going to set standards and new milestones for Pakistani art, how in the world is the Pakistani art world, especially the students and fresh graduates, going to benefit and learn anything if they are never going to experience the work?

In no way do I feel that the artists should be obligated to educate and take on responsibilities that are not theirs, but there has to be a desire to share the work back home too.

And what has to be shared is their independent, experimental work; Work that is exciting, fresh and which might not necessarily have a commercial market in Pakistan.

Image courtesy

The work that Imran Qureshi did in Kabul, Afghanistan, Oxford, England, Mogi Nagar, India was breathtakingly beautiful. The same imagery interplayed with the response to the space at hand, the frame of mind at the time of the work produced and a playful nature that suggested something more serious – a freedom to expand and question the realm of miniature that I feel he has been dealing with on and off in his practice and daily life.

Coming to now, I was excited to see some of Imran Qureshi’s latest work. But perhaps it was the build-up that led to me have greater expectations but left me feeling I wanted more. More more more. I liked the work. That’s it. Liked – Just that mild was my reaction. However, I didn’t find the essence of Imran Qureshi in that work beyond the obvious signature flowers. I feel that we needed to see more of him and less of picture perfect framed wall pieces. The unruliness of the energetic splashes and the attempt to control them with a kalam would have perhaps been more exciting and disturbing if they had been dealt with differently.

Like two people pointed out at the discussion, the work seemed forced, contrived even.

What was it about the show that made me uneasy? I don’t know. It’s not the blood or the bloodied hand and body imprints. Maybe it’s just me. Sometimes I don’t know what I want from the artists too. I hope to talk to the artist soon enough to hear what he has to say.

At this point I think it’s important to know that within the art world separate opinions and preferences of apparently recognizable and standardized aesthetics exist. It is imperative to constructive criticism. And in my writings, a necessary ingredient. Because the Sunday reviews just don’t offer that much on the menu anymore.

Drinking tea,



Leave a Comment
  1. Hammad Nasar / Nov 4 2010 9:35 pm

    Dear s.a.

    I enjoyed your comments on Imran’s show, and some of the associated issues you raised. Not having seen this work other than as jpegs, I wouldn’t want to comment on the specifics of the work. But felt it was the right conversation to be having. And in case you are are ever in doubt about whether repetition can make an interesting life practice, I have two words for you — Sol LeWitt.

    But I wanted to debate a couple of things with you. One – that somehow the ‘cool’ artists are not showing in Pakistan anymore. Two – that art students are being deprived.

    From my own little narrow perspective, I can tell you about Bani Abidi’s solo show that we (Green Cardamom) did at VM Gallery in Karachi earlier this year; or about Hamra Abbas showing her body of new work at the NCA galleries in Lahore and Rawalpindi to years ago; or us showing Rashid’s Offshore Accounts, Sophie Ernst’s Home and Amar Kanwar’s A Season Outside at the Lines of Control show at VM again last year. Now you have the Rising Tide show at Mohatta, to be followed up by Rashid’s mid-career survey show. By the way of all the shows that I listed — many of the works were not for sale or had no realistic prospect for sales — and were thus largely a reflection of artists and organisations wanting the work to be seen in Pakistan.

    Furthermore, there are monographs on Bani and Hamra with essays by international curators and writers available in Lahore (Last Word) and Karachi (VM & Koel). And many, if not most artists, have very good websites (check out both Bani’s and Hamra’s as examples of pretty good ones). So you can see why I am a bit sceptical of students not being able to engage with work.

    I also come with some baggage in this regard. In my one mini-stint at teaching final year art students in Lahore a few years back I remember seeing a collective total of 3 students at the eight openings in the city that I attended during my one-month stint. I took this, and numerous other, smaller things, as a crippling lack of curiosity. And to me curiosity is the defining characteristic, if there is such a thing, of an artist. If art students and artists are curious they will find what they need to find and engage at the level they wish to.

    But maybe I am being harsh? Answers on a postcard please (loved the last one).


    • s.a. / Nov 8 2010 11:04 am

      Dear h.n
      I’m so glad that you read the post and commented. It is exactly this kind of dialogue that the blog is aimed at. Unlike other such spaces, harshness is most welcome!
      I’m familiar with Sol LeWitts work and particularly enjoy the fact that he was involved in a lot of art exchange. However I believe that these questions on visual vocabulary,consistency,repitition and change are all important issues that have to be explained, debated and understood by students – particularly those reading at the MA level.

      Sadly I do agree that student appearances at exhibitions is lackluster and that they need to be pushed to develop this activity. It is an important activity that promotes art and supports the fraternity… Especially younger artists who are vying to be seen.

      This post specifically was written kept in mind the questions and concerns that were raised- and which I found interesting enough to share.


      P.s. Postcard will be sent soon!

    • s.a. / Nov 10 2010 2:27 pm

      a very pertinent point was raised on your comment here by somebody I just met. The said person feels that the Gandhara art books are not affordable for students at 3000 rupees a pop. He also added that these books are still not part of the NCA library. Maybe you should look into that too.

      • Hammad Nasar / Nov 10 2010 3:12 pm

        I think if you ask Gandhara, I would be surprised if they would not agree to donate a set of books to the NCA library. Having said that I would also be in favour of local libraries buying books to support the very costly venture of putting these books out in the first place. Have you tried asking the NCA Library to buy these books?

      • the s.a. project / Nov 11 2010 4:29 pm

        I will make a move on that piece of advice…tomorrow. Today I need to meet a deadline and write an article on the adolescent joys and problems of young art graduates.oh yay.

  2. imran Qureshi / Nov 7 2010 11:10 am

    Dear Saira,
    Very interesting,
    I would love to come to M.A visual art class and talk about all the issues those were raised.

    Best imran q

    • s.a. / Nov 8 2010 10:50 am

      Great sir! We would love to have an open debate on the work and some of the confusions the students had. Although I’m very sure there that it’s going to be hard for many to be very direct because they are apprehensive about asking questions in front of teachers. I will ask Saamia to schedule a time for us.

  3. Shehneela / Jan 4 2011 11:22 am

    I believe the discussion scheduled with sir Imran q has already taken place. I was as much intrigued by his latest work as you as mentioned in your post here. My being away from country and sunday times lack of details are keeping me away from pakistani art…
    If you can please post the discussion here it would benefit alot of us i am sure!

    • the s.a. project / Jan 4 2011 1:28 pm

      Actually it didn’t take place unfortunately! The MA schedule was so so tight. Saamia tried to coordinate it and Imran Qureshi wanted to meet us too but ho hi nahi saka. i think it might me scheduled after the thesis now most probably.
      If it does, i’d like to make a sound bite and put it up online.

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