By Farman Ali
Islamabad: A self-taught artist has brilliantly portrayed Covid-19 ethos, in general, and fading memories and cultural heritage as well as city life of Lahore, in particular.
The online exhibition of the artworks, titled ‘City Dwellers’, by Kamal Hyatt, a development professional and free-spirited artist, is a succinct comment on the insensitivity of society towards cultural heritage now in ruins due to unplanned commercial activities that have turned the city of the culture into a concrete jungle.
After an absence of five years since his last show at Alhmara, Lahore in 2014, Kamal has staged a comeback in after Coronavirus scenario with his recent works done in acrylic on canvas portraying his personal feelings, the loss of childhood memories and heritage meticulously.
The paintings are rich in texture, simple in style and subdued in colour palate. Some of the figures depict real-life situations. He has dealt with some themes and put on canvas mundane domestic activities such as having a meal or sitting with family members skillfully.
“Given the growing interest in Pakistan’s contemporary art, there is a chance of building a cohesive network which can link up with other cultural disciplines, helping to inspire, clarify and sustain a more complete reflection of aesthetics conducive to indigenous creativity,” Nageen Hyat, Founding Director of Nomad Gallery and Shanakht Trust said.
“Kamal’s latest exhibition reflects on his roots and the multiple reasons for their meanings. His space is not merely a receptacle for the forms, but as an independent element in itself, balanced and diverse.”
“These paintings were done over a period of time and reflect different interests at different times,” Kamal told The High Asia Herald.
“Some of the earlier ones are about Lahore because it is a city which I relate to most, not only because the major part of my life, including school days and college days, I spent here, but because it is a city I keep discovering again and again,” he said.
“Its history, its people, its personality, its warmth and its food give me never-ending subjects to think, write and paint about. Very few other cities in the world would provide you with the scene of a ‘Roadside Barber’, setting up shop under a tree and carrying on his work oblivious to the public, the rickshaws and the cars passing by. Both barber and client are equally comfortable with their surroundings.”
Talking about the fading memories of the city, the artist said: “The older generation gets older, and so it was important to capture Old Tollington Market, which was nearly demolished but saved by an active civil society not wanting to let go of its heritage. At one time, it was a bustling shopping centre, visited by all those people who later moved to Liberty Market, Al-Fatah and The Malls. The Tollington Market had a myriad shop, where buyers and sellers knew and trusted each other, and built camaraderie and personal relationship lost now forever.
Similarly, the Old Gymkhana Club in Lawrence Gardens was the scene of ballroom dancing and children’s Christmas parties, which continued much after the Partition but now remain just faint memories of a bygone era.
In the paintings ’Ranjit Singh’s Samadhi’ and the ’Inner City Residents’, he has captured scenes of Lahore, its history, and the people.
In the painting ‘Silhouette’, Kamal has remarkably depicted three persons in the dark shadows around a table with a knife, fork, and a plate laden with food, blending multiple perspectives.
The more recent paintings reflect on the fast-changing world such as the ’Woman in Blue’ is a pensive portrait representing a mood that alternates between an uncertain future and hope in a world which is in disarray. Whereas the ‘Woman in Orange’ represents a positive approach in these difficult times – as if she knows that this too shall pass.
In the panting ’Protective’, the artist has highlighted the need to protect our future, not only from climate change’s perspective but from all the social injustices and chaos we are seeing in the world today.
In ‘All Lives Matter’, the artist seems to be inspired from the Black Lives Matter Movement sweeping the Western World.
“But it’s been expanded to cover all lives in all countries that do matter, especially in our own country,” as the artist puts it.
The online show will continue through September.