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Picture perfect - tribune

13 March, 2013

Picture Perfect: Five artists share their take on family portraits

Published: January 18, 2013

'I am going to another photo BYE! 1929' by Saadia Hussain is among the paintings on sale at the gallery. PHOTO: COURTESY ARTCHOWK

KARACHI: It is said that a picture is worth a thousand words and five artists from the National College of Arts, Lahore proved on Thursday that family portraits can narrate untold stories and add to the ones being passed down to generations.

The exhibition of family portraits, Picture Perfect, opened at the ArtChowk Gallery on Thursday despite the fear and panic in Karachi following the killing of Muttahida Qaumi Movement’s MPA Syed Manzar Imam. “We will not let these people [terrorists] get in our way,” said Shakira Masood, a representative of the gallery. Four out of the five artists managed to make it to the opening with considerable difficulty.

The artists used their interpretation on pictures of their own family and others to share how they feel about family.

“My work is based on personal snapshots and images from notebooks,” explained artist Mohsin Shafi. “I have tried to explore how we feel about people when we see them. My work also studies how people feel about themselves – the conflict between who they are and how they portray themselves.”

Artist Mizna Zulfiqar was inspired by the idea of ‘family’ and what it means. In her work, Zulfiqar has tried to study the meaning of ‘joy’ for families. “A wall of family portraits works as a memory tool for moments that are important enough to be celebrated and stored,” she said. “However, it is the ‘happy’ that has always been preserved. My work tries to save those escaping memories which make a moment perfect.”

Saadia Hussain, who used water colour technique to add feeling to family photographs dated as far back as 1895, said that her work is an amalgamation of the past, present and imagination. “Some of the pictures use themes taken from popular fairy tales to tell a story.”

Saamia Vine, who also teaches at NCA, explained that for her, the paintings have taken on a haunting undertone because of the violence in Pakistan. “I hope to evoke a sense of empathy in the viewer through these autobiographical paintings to which I return to from time to time.”

Published in The Express Tribune, January 18th, 2013.