A constant point in time

A constant point in time | pakistantribe.com

‘Set in a moment yet still moving’ describes a sequence between different terrains and its complications. These pieces of art are defining people and time of a certain place, but the echo of artist’s thinking is far broader than these paintings.

In Naiza’s work, time and space is very clear not just in her paintings but in the text as well which she has used to define Manora according to her thoughts.

She’s been working on Manora since 10 years, so a decade-long hardwork and research is incorporated. The title is very much clear to explain that nothing remains constant, the place and Naiza herself have changed a lot in this tenure. The text which she has used is in terms of geography, and her map-like picturesque is much more than just an artwork, a great message which she herself isn’t able to define clearly.

In the beginning of 19th century when British entered Sindh they used Pottinger text to explain their journey. Naiza has also been inspired by the text and made her work understandable through it.

Naiza Khan has played a vital role in the world of arts. London-based artist is working on Karachi and its historical base Manora decade ago.

Noor Jehan Bilgrami, owner of Koel Gallery also highlighted the works of Naiza Khan and told that she’s been very experienced not age-wise but work-wise and contributed a lot in arts. She had also taught in Indus Valley School of Arts for 15 years and now in KU. She has worked a lot on Manora, historic base of Karachi. There she has covered Gurdwaras, structures, landscape na d much more.  She also said that horizon line is very clear from Islands in her work and only art critics would be able to see that.

She has drawn attention towards important issues with her work.

Real meaning of art is ‘smuggling meaning’. And Naiza is one of the luckiest who with the help of Pakistan Navy smuggled meaning of one of the most important island-like Manora. Most of the part of her work is upon the minorities which she has depicted in oil on canvas and water paints. She says that by talking to the minorities about their daily life, she feels very much familiar with them now.

On the other hand she’s related to the terrain and element of time is very much important in it. Living in UK, far from her city she’s learnt the real meaning of this place, whereas she’s captured thinking and imagination everlastingly.

She believes that visiting one place more than a many times, witnessing the sites, until or unless some were demolished is just like a habit for her now. With the passage of time Naiza’s steps of making Manora’s situation better has also been changed.

While studying Manora so closely she came across that these aren’t just patterns, instead are thoughts that have been generated from a particular place and like that, time to time text started to lengthen and then she got to know that the text contains last 10 years thoughts whose second part is under progress.

Here are few questions which were asked and the artist has responded:

  1. Q) What does the current body of your work depict?

Ans) The work in the current exhibition is not specifically hinged on Manora; it is more about the city and its spatial and temporal life. The current body of work has emerged from a long engagement with Manora Island and the urban landscape of Karachi and its relationship to the sea.  I have been investigating built structures around me through a range of media, including drawings, video work, sculpture, paintings and prints. Architectonic phenomena in my work include ruins, found objects, construction sites, (as well as the nature of public space that surrounds such sites). In this regard, my practice explores a perceptual and textural building of terrain, as it is linked to witnessed political and social realities that are immediately apparent to present experience, but also the challenges to the present posed by the resurfacing of past realities.  The work is grounded in Karachi, but references global phenomena.

This specific re/search has enabled me to rethink, imagine, and theorize urban space through subjective experience. In so doing, I have encountered multiple embedded histories and time frames. Images and objects have travelled back and forth, between the making of the work itself and the way the work connects with new contexts. Ideas of debris and dust storms, atmospheric climate, and the breaching of borders, emerge central to my current concerns.

I have been thinking about the nature of debris, and of its productive quality in space. I look at the phenomenon of erasure, as well as the multiple ‘presencing’ of objects, such as the boat, or the tent, the horizon line, the gutted whale.

These ideas rest upon particular conceptual and gestural explorations regarding materiality and embodiment. ‘Formally, the work plays upon the mutual inherence of mapping and landscape art, as conceived in early colonial cartography. Its contemporary allusion is, however, to the city’s being, marked as it is by historic rupture, a place at once adrift and self-revealing.’


Q) You have covered Manora/Karachi in your paintings illustrating the life of minorities/Gurdwaras, etc. there.

In this body of work, or earlier works on Manora / Karachi, I have not explicitly set out to talk about minorities as such. I discovered more about the history of the land that we live in, by walking and observing the city and the Island of Manora. I was interested in the multi-religious space that once existed in both places. But to say that I am illustrating the life of minorities would not be accurate.


Q) What does Chapter IX explain? The title is self-explanatory, yet I want you to tell its real meaning.

Ok, this is an important work, and it was interesting for me to bring it together with the series of the 2 oil paintings next to it. I have been looking at this page of text for several years.  The image of the text is taken directly from a scan of the page from the book –

‘Travels in Beloochistan and Sinde’ by Henry Pottinger from 1816.

The thing that first got me interested was the way the text is laid out on the page of the book; it is the contents page for chapter IX. But I really liked the way the short bits of text sit between the dash and the dots/point.  So there is a design element here that was visually intriguing to me when I first saw this page.

As the British were obsessed with classification, the text shows the listing of land, customs, and relationships that the historian was trying to describe about this part of the South Asia during the early 19C. I was also fascinated by the subject headings on this page, which give the reader a sense of the way Pottinger the historian is looking at the details and conditions of materiality around him.

So my desire to make this as a large scale imprint on the wall, as an extract of a page from history was to put this text and what it signifies for me, and its historical context into

a dynamic relationship with the two images in the oil painting. I wanted to activate the text and its contents into the contemporary context of Sindh and of the city of Karachi.

I wanted this to be read by different people and see how they, as citizens of a post-colonial city, would relate to the words and what meaning could be derived by them from it.

The two oils are referencing the built structures of factories from the East India Company paintings.

So my concerns here are about the demarcation of space within colonial frameworks such as factories and cities in the 19C during the British Empire.

Through the painting, I was trying to think about the order and distribution of power that space demarcation signifies.

About the author

Abida Gohar

Abida Gohar writes for PakistanTribe.com on cultural and social topics.

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