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Conflict within control.

Byline: Inseya Ali

Ali Azmat's work has always held a realm of curiosity worthy of praise and denouement to some extent. However it pains me not to hold the same opinions about his newest series of paintings titled ADAptability' at Canvas Gallery Karachi. All thoughts aside it must have been heartwarming for an artist - especially a groomed super-realist to share his canvas with his impulsive four year-old daughter and send a very basic message through a whole series. Every artist needs at some point to connect to his or her roots and see the world simple and clear; without the fissures of anyone else's thoughts clouding their vision. This message is portrayed in the forms of Ali Azmat's work. It is the same message that builds the ground that a super-realist and an abstract artist can step on together without the earth tilting too much. And if artists of two such different mindsets can find ground then we should think of the social message it sends in these times.

Ebullient to see the expression of this message in Ali Azmat's art I was depressed after seeing this series. In only a few odd fugacious paintings we can see them touching this ground. Probably the most disappointing painting is the one I viewed at the very beginning. A tree painted by Ada and women sitting under it almost symmetrically. I'm not sure what Ada's contribution in this was supposed to do but it closed the composition which had already been suffocated by the painted background which did not adapt' to Ada's work in any way. Instead of the child-like fruit on the tree being the cynosure our eyes were led to look at the blandly painted woman who lacked a figure-ground relationship even though it gave the impression of being connected to the tree. Although I still credit Ali Azmat as a brilliant draftsman this was the only artistic point of this piece.

There was a control and conflict which overwhelmed the feeling in the paintings. It sometimes seemed that Ali Azmat wanted to photo transfer the same emotionless woman onto all his pieces hoping that Ada's work would make it a moiety. His fascination towards figures was not translated in any of his pieces except the last few where they were blown out of proportion. This element made the few paintings successful but pyrrhic. We understand where Ali Azmat's control came from but why was Ada so controlled It quirked me that a child's work could be so compact and kept in check. This is where the sense of conflict came from. And it is most prominent in the cactus. There were cacti in many pieces but only one was painted by Ada. I had thought until now that this control may be a gift inherited for Ada but her cacti changed my mind. It had to be one of the most beautiful cacti exhibited. Soft and watered it went against every conventional portrayal of a cactus.

It showed nature in its most beautiful and astounding form. The stark difference in the cacti made Ali Azmat's work look like coffee shop paintings. Another element where this difference was made clear was the background Ada attempted. The one by Ali Azmat made the image suffocating to look at; meanwhile Ada's strokes spoke more than anything. We could hear the expression and tone while she painted and finally see some expression in the woman even though her face was not visible. I can confidently conclude that if Ada was not given the chance to paint on her father's canvases this series would have been nothing more than paintings to have in waiting rooms and lounges.

Another aspect that I want to talk about is the size of the paintings. If you are taking a risk and exhibiting a child's freedom why is every painting the same awkward rectangle of the same size It makes the process boring.

However there is always more than face value. Ali Azmat appears as the weaker artist in this collaboration but there may have been a reason for that. His blandness did highlight Ada's crucial contributions. In his previous works he portrays the message of society's norms so what if he is following the same path here And with this I see the evocative message the artist has so poetically concealed maybe even from himself. His daughter is a four year old unknowing of society's expectations and regulations of women. Her childlike spontaneity is intact. The women painted are the exact opposite of Ada's work. Bland basic and bony they represent the dull and mindless products of society. Ada has (without being aware) countered that as a female artist herself and openly announced the breaking of rules and expectations laid down by society.

And so Ada has not just saved her father's series ADAptability' but unknowingly told us that she will not be a product of the present society and has shown the reflections of the real status of women. However beautiful the message is I would not suggest these two artists collaborate even when they want to take a risk.
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Publication:Nukta Art
Date:Jun 30, 2014
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