IRIS Art Mag

Hi, here I’m putting my recent interviews and other articles I did
for the IRIS Art Mag. This art e-magazine is the latest project by
one of my senior and most trusted colleague and teacher,
Khalid Rahman. — May Allah succeed us in this. Ameen.


The Gamcha Project by Elise Vazelkis

By Jamil Khan – published in the 2:2014 (April-June issue)

The recent art exhibition by Elise Vazelakis ‘The Gamcha Project’ is a unique example of creating artwork to weave portrait photos and even pieces of Gamcha – a thin colourful cotton towel used by labourers from Pakistani, India and Bangladesh as headwear to wipe sweat while working in the heat of Dubai. The show expressed what Elise feels towards the people who have built Dubai.The month-long exhibit opened at Showcase Gallery in Al-Quoz, attracting art lovers from various communities.
Elise is from Los Angeles and has been living in upscale Marina in Dubai for the last three years. As an artist, she had exhibited her work – paintings and sculptures – in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles and one in Dubai two years ago.
“This project, completed in one year, was started without any planning. I have been living in Marina and was watching the labourers at different construction sites. I got intrigued with their colourful headwear, known as Gamcha. In the start, I asked them to trade their used Gamcha with a new one and have some money too. They were happy to do so and I collected 60 such colourful Gamchas from them,” she said.
She later made a ‘care package’ worth Dhs20 to put some money, snacks and a new Gamcha worth Dhs5 which she bought from grocery shops in labour camps and whenever she asked a labourer for his Gamcha, she handed over the package as a friendly gesture. The act gained her respect and fame among the different construction sites in her neighborhood and she was welcomed with smile in the area.
After collecting many Gamchas, she created a weaving piece to use these Gamchas but she faced a problem that she knew nothing about the weaving. She also took photographs of labourers and collected some construction material like nails which she later used in her artworks.
“I visited many places in Dubai to find a loom but all in vain so I had to go back to California and not only bought a traditional loom but also took a one-month course to learn the skill,” she told IRIS Art Mag in an exclusive interview on the opening night of her month-long exhibition. Around 60 such artworks of different sizes are part of this fiber-textile exhibition. The maximum price of the art work is Dhs6,000.
“These artworks are not pieces of weaving but an interaction with the lonely people who are working hard to make Dubai what it is. Throughout the project, I interacted with these labourers whom I have always found quite friendly,” she said.
Elise sends this message to everyone: people should at least smile whenever they saw a labourer as smile has a universal message of happiness. “We are here for a better life and so are these labourers from Pakistan, India, Bangladesh and other countries. We should respect them,” she said.
She has planned to invite some of labourers being portrayed in the exhibition and says she will gave them a copy of their portraits.
A portion of the proceeds of the sale of artworks will go to the Sameness Project, an NGO working for the labourers in Dubai.-End

‘New Vision’ exhibition of 5 young Pakistani artists gets huge response in Dubai

pic-1--Annem Zaidi with artwork
By Jamil Khan – published in the 2:2014 [April-June issue]

Pakistani artists and their artwork — whether it is painting, drawing, calligraphy or any other form of expression, always gets a remarkable response from the multinational audience in Dubai. ‘New Vision’ was one such exhibition was held to showcase a number of paintings by five contemporary female artists from Pakistan. The group exhibition was held at the Mussawir Art Gallery set up among the labyrinth of dozens of art galleries in Al Quoz.The opening night was attended by a large number of art lovers from different expatriate communities as well as Javed Malik, Ambassador and Prime Minister’s special envoy as the chief guest.
“Pakistani art has a good place in the international market and the contemporary artist being display in the exhibition getting good response and proving their talent in the global market,” Malik said as addressed the guests.
As many as 27 artworks of five female contemporary artists were displayed at the exhibition and admired by the visitors from Pakistan, India, Emirates as well as westerners. Only one of the five participants, young Annem Afzaal Zaidi, attended the opening night and shared her thought with the audience. Paintings done on canvas in oil as well pencil color on paper were part of the exhibition done by Dua Abbas, Sadaf Naeem Sarah Hashmi and Saba Zahid were also on display.”I have focused on the fragile female nature and the day-to-day expectations society has placed on her,” she said while referring to her work, six oil paintings on canvas. She graduated from the National College of Arts, Lahore, in 2012 and her high contrast. ‘Faceless Females’ in Western dress show mystery and drama, simultaneously exploring challenges of womanhood within the Pakistani culture.Talking to the IRIS Art Mag, M Ramzan, CEO of Mussawir Art Gallery, shed light on the current exhibition as well as the contribution of his gallery to promote the Pakistani art scene in the global market. He has been in the business for the last 25 years.
“Pakistani artists and their work has always been in good demand throughout the world. After running two major galleries in Pakistan, we thought to promote our artists and their work in Dubai which is one of the prominent global markets with the huge number of Pakistani population and art admirers from over 100 nationalities residing here,” he told.
Ramzan started his career as framer in Lahore and being close relation with artists. He develop his passion in art and started collecting paintings of masters as well as contemporary artists.
“We set up Ejaz Art Gallery in Lahore. It is one of the biggest galleries in Pakistan. However, our Karchi gallery, ArtScene is a big one too,” he told IRIS Art Mag. Since Dec 2012, Ramzan opened their third gallery in Dubai and so far 10 exhibitions have been organized to showcase artwork by masters including Sadequin, Jamil Naqsh, Ala Bukhsh, Gulgee, Iqbal Hussain, Saeed Akhtar, Ahmad Khan, Mashkoor Raza and many others.
He was of the view that the Dubai is a big and mix market for Pakistani artists. “The locals are interested in calligraphic work while Pakistanis, Indians and westerners are keen to have landscape and portrait paintings. But the overall response is good and we are expecting a good time later this year,” he said.
The Mussawir Art Gallery is going to have a solo exhibition of the famous artist Mashkoor Raza’s black and white calligraphic work which will be put on display for the first time in Dubai from April 9.-End

Naqsh’s solo exhibition draws huge admiration
Ayesha with Marjorie and Mona-Naqsh
By Jamil Khan – published in the 2:2014 [April-June issue]

The opening night of ‘The Painted Words’ was attended by Marjorie Husain, prominent critic of Pakistani art scene and writer of three books on Jamil Naqsh, as a special guest. The other attendees were a large number of Pakistani community members as well as Naqsh’s admirers from other expat communities. Moona Naqsh was also there on the opening night of her father’s calligraphic work and shared her admiration and his passion of work.
The exhibition — ‘The Painted Word’ was a collection of 102 recent paintings of calligraphic work — organized by Albemarle Gallery, London, in collaboration with Dubai-based Poetic Strokes.
“During the last summer in London, we organized an exhibition of recent work, over 400 paintings, of calligraphy done by Jamil Naqsh which received a huge response and we sold about 30 percent of his paintings. Naqsh is much loving artist in Pakistani community as well as among the art admirers all over the world,” said Tony Pontone, founding director of Albemarle Gallery while talking to the IRIS Art Mag on the opening night.
Pontone, who has known Naqsh for a long time, said he always thought how wonderful was each one of Naqsh’s paintings, from Arabic lettering to Quranic verses and other calligraphy.
About his latest calligraphic work, Pontone said, “Each of these paintings is so full of colours and so powerful. Having known Naqsh for so many years and feeling very passionate about his work, I’m still enjoying every single painting he has done,” he said, admiring.
Marjorie Husain had come especially from Pakistan on special invitation by Tony Pontone. She received a huge applause for her association with Naqsh that is spread over four decades. Marjorie first met the young artist in 1968 in Karachi and has been closely admiring the wide range of paintings during the past over four decades. She also wrote three books Jamil Naqsh: Pakistan’s Modern Master, Modern Manuscripts and Beyond Words.
“His work is always amazing — from painted words to sequences, so exciting and so different,” she said, expressing her deep feeling.
Recalling years gone by, she said, “Jamil Naqsh once combined pigeons and nudes. The work was magic. First, he painted pigeons and then nudes and when he mixed them, it looked just genius,” she recalled, and pointed that as a young artist he was much respected among his contemporaries.
Discussing the noted artist and calligrpaher, Marjorie mentioned the likes and passions of Jamil Naqsh as well as his upbringing in a well educated family and his love for his mother could be seen in his ‘Mother and Child’ series.
Jamil Naqsh was more interested in his work rather than any other activities. When Karachi was under the martial law administration, many artists felt stifled about displaying their work. “It is good that we are now free to work as nobody is coming into our studios to disturb,” he told Marjorie at that time which reflected his passion for work.
She recalled many interactions with Jamil Naqsh and shared her thoughts on the Pakistan’s most prominent artist. “Pigeons were much painted in his work which reflects his childhood in Kairana, in India’s UP province where his father’s house was the central arena among the local art community as every evening writers, painters and others gathered and discussed cultural aspects for hours and Jamil Naqsh hid inside the house and listened to them for hours,” she said.
His father was a well-known cultural personality of Kairana, had written many books and also used to illustrate them with miniature paintings.
“He learned miniature painting from his father at an early age and with his close attachment he developed his love for words and started drawing and painting Arabic letters since then,” Marjorie said.
Ayesha Imtiaz, founder of the Poetic Strokes hoped that the show will bring a huge response and said that they are confident that a substantial number of Naqsh’s paintings will be sold through Dubai’s exhibition.-End

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