Art Scene
Ethereal
By Fatima S. Khan
Los Angeles, CA

Cultural renaissance has swept the city of Karachi and the art scene is bustling with dynamic, cutting edge and forward thinking synergy. The way to the future is illuminated; there is willingness to scramble the conventional ideas of genre, mixing criticism and philosophical arguments and inching towards experimentation both mundane and lofty, with a blending of voice, style and genre. Such eclecticism is not an end in itself. Unprecedented building and transformation of nearly a dozen or so cultural and art institutions takes the art scene to a completely new level. There is professional reinvention in the fine art world, with photography and digital art.
On a staggeringly beautiful January morning, soft sunlight shimmering through the folds of fog, and I was on my way to the Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture Karachi. Although I heard compelling stories of the structure, that now houses “Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture”; none came close to the 18th Century monument that stood in all its glory right before my eyes. The Institute is famous for undertaking a unique project of relocating and reconstructing, stone-by-stone, a hundred-year old historic building - a historic landmark of Karachi - the Nusserwanjee Building, to the campus at Clifton. This building which is part of Karachi’s architectural heritage, was dismantled from it original site stone by stone and is now part of the school campus. This is a monumental achievement by the city of Karachi and the founding members of “Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture”.
I met Farah Mahbub at the entrance of the building and followed her to the third floor of her photography studio. As she threw open, the windows the Arabian Sea at a close distance looked calm and composed; the fresh breeze was uplifting and the morning light was perfect to photograph. Farah a confident and self-taught Avante Garde artist immediately indulged into her favorite subject matter. “I love the unconventional art forms because it is the most individual and unmediated creature response to the world”. She continues, “The connection between becoming an artist and people who are outside the mainstream is important particularly for people who are self-taught like me”. Farah is self-taught and made a smooth transition from conventional straight photography into digital photo art (photo montageing); she is heading the photography program at the Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture.
Farah thrives on the fringe, there is a constant sense of curiosity, she persists on being on the edge. She has passion for the Ethereal. She navigates between the corporate and the creative spheres. She considers her work not as a linear influence but as a pivotal influence. Her artwork is deeply seeded with wisdom, depth and passion, it certainly is most abstract in every sense and each work is habitually unpredictable yet driven with independent intellect. Her approach is noble and pure minded, perhaps the dynamic images are a juxtaposition of reality and fantasy. The fullness of the inward threatened to burst the prevalent boundaries of her artwork. The subject matter is a powerful longing to be “One with the Creator” for deliverance and salvation.
She expresses in her own poetry:

My Roshanee with still silent elegant grace walks into my being
Sanity once drained refilled regained
She shows me the path to the truth in unimaginable ways
As I am crushed with gratefulness my eyes fill up…
A strange desire sweeps through me
Sweet smells drown my senses
I hope and pray that maybe one day
Due to this immense generosity bestowed upon me
By the blessed souls silsala that leads to you—The beyond
Make me worthy to have lived this part of the journey to eternity,
For the sake of the blessed souls
Whose lives touched this wayward mortal and make me whole.

Farah’s artwork radiates an excessive brilliance, empathy and sympathy for the subject matter. In the case of a young boy as a silhouette in the bubble and outside the bubble, the outside image larger than the inside evoking thoughts of beyond boundaries, larger than life. Images of Mughal architecture the shell within the bubble and the heightened creativity of embellishments outside the bubble, the background of palatial, monument entrenched in history, the seamless melding of the present into the past.
She chooses subject matter that intoxicates the sensually ecstatic, the seashores are boundaries of energy and light cheerful capriciousness, the mounds of molded earth are the trappings of the mind, and the brilliance of the water sparks, seeking freedom from such attachments and parameters reaching for the higher source for that transcendent sublime state of being. The images conjures thoughts of the past and present seamlessly merging, the infinite beauty of the seashores, the purity of the water, the innocent playfulness of light and water --- capturing the forever-elusive light forms permanently from her expert vision and longing to be “One with nature”.
Strikingly beautiful are the images of Jami Masjid Ahmedabad; attempt was made to capture the glorious past, she expertly evokes thoughts of the viewer, with textures and colors that reach heights of opulence and variety, a peculiar mixture of a study of the grandeur of the past. Her vivid images of the urban and the rustic, modern and archaic, baffling and befuddling are incredibly inspiring, colors are raw and interesting her desire to reach for the “beyond” captures the viewer and stays.
Farah takes every subject matter seriously, cares about them deeply, and treats each as an emotional experience with a youthful gusto relying on her hunches, some ambivalence she dares to scramble so far off the limb and dares to explore and experiment, the true intellect, steeped in awareness that is her defining trait as a true artist.
Some of her artwork is an intricate assemblage of real and imaginative, splashed in unpredictable direction a purposeful act of wandering and searching. A simple curiosity as in the case of --- rocks, sky and sea painting ---such are objects of serial curiosity, the texture of the rocks, the warm colors form maybe the setting or the rising sun, edged with the coolness of the water. She is gripped with ideas, full of intellect, reaches out to her audience, and lifts them to a heightened sense of perception that deserved to be described as “subliminal”.


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Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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