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Riffat Alvi

Contemporary artist Riffat Alvi has always explored life through art. Whether it is probing reality or questioning the quality of existence, her oeuvre remains centered on the nuances of the living experience. She visualized it as a sensory impression in her early exhibitions and tried to grasp the essence of life amongst the lost civilizations through the Rothko inspired color fields, in her Moenjodaro phase. Her expression gained a more palpable presence when she began experimenting with earth pigments. Resonating with historical and religious connotations her crude painterly applications of clay enabled her to conjure the mystical concept of “dust to dust.”

 

While retaining her abstract stance many random markings on her canvas now hint at figuration in this new body of work. Riffat Alvi’s dilemma is not dissimilar to Gauguin’s query, “What are we? Where are we going?...” She voices her anxiety and distress through her art. Her recent canvases carry hazy images of shrouded human forms. Like the lost tribes of Egypt, having strayed from the righteous path, the forsaken are adrift with no destination in sight. She paints hordes of humanity, uncertain and abstracted, wandering in a cloud of confusion. The artist’s plea for a “Search Within” is a remedial measure_ soul searching for self correction and a return to sanity and normalcy. She deliberately emphasizes aimlessness and delusion in her paintings to reinforce her belief in the very opposite, that “ life is glorious, purposeful and exuberant.”

 

A front ranking modernist whose work has been in the public eye for over three decades, Alvi’s oeuvre has remained consistent in thought but her expression is open to change and experiment. Earlier attempts with oils, watercolors and pastels were soon over shadowed by her discovery and enduring fascination with earth pigments which eventually became her main mode of expression. Her former crusty textures have given way to smooth surfaces and her pigments now incorporate colours of minerals, saffron, water based industrial hues, smoke fumes and metal. In sculpture she has opted for sand-casting and firing her pieces to obtain what she terms “charred by the fire of hell” appearance.

 

Salwat Ali