TREES WERE FAUN GREEN.
The concept of many worlds existing parallel to one another is not new. From the Alice in Wonderland to the magical mysterious Land of the Oz; the notion of another world or a fantasy realm which is far from the ordinary is quite mesmerizing for the artist and common people alike. Some find their world in the heart of the beloved and others dedicate entire lives to exploring the wonders of the world - Dendrolatry is one such kind. The veneration of trees has always been a matter of great importance in folk tales and mythologies. For instance the biblical reference of the apple tree the Christmas tree and the tree of life represent forbidden urges celebration and resurrection respectively and this dialogue is expanded through theology culture literature and arts.
The use of trees as metaphor in arts and culture has been a widespread practice throughout history. The scenic foliage tapestry of unicorns from Renaissance the mosaic work of the Great Mosque of Damascus (depicting The Gardens of Heaven) Hanging Gardens of Babylon the act of married Hindu women devotees tying multicolor sacred threads on wishing trees (Banyan Tree) the hunting and quixotic scene of the Persian and Mughal miniature painted against a rich background of trees; all these represent the apex of artistic imaginative and creative elucidation of dendrolatry.
Talha Rathore a Pakistani artist trained in miniature painting from National College of Arts (NCA) Lahore currently lives and works in Brooklyn New York. Her recent solo exhibition at Chawkandi Art Gallery Karachi in February was titled Celebrating Life''.
Rathore's show has an abundant presence of different kinds of trees which seems similar to documentation as seen in books like The Book of Species during The Age of Exploration. At the same time it also unfolds the artist's personal narration and creative convictions. The body of work on display includes some of her old work also but most of the pieces are new. She has used a minimalistic approach in her newer work. Whereas her old work includes the complex layering of street maps overlapping of her own self and self portrait with micro details of cellular organisms.
The sharp and bright background against the sprouting branches of greens and olives is an effectual highlight of the paintings. Rathore's work celebrates and portrays the idea of life hope eternity and the very acute moment of life's experiences which is obvious in both her titles of the works and the metaphors and imagery she used in her paintings. Unlike Van Gogh's Cypress trees her pair of Cypresses stands tall and still representing a state of rigid union. The complimentary contrast of pigment red (background) and green in her work titled In This Very Moment' (Fig. 1.) makes the painting look a little flat. The white thread tied all around the Cypress couple is also leading to the painted paper boat which gives the painting a somewhat dramatic look.
While on the other hand her lonely happy dancing Cypress titled I Still Remember' (Fig. 2.) is painted in shades of orange and patterned with small stylized white floral motifs (similar to the motifs in Indian saris) against green background hints at the joyous and sparkling sensations of life.
Where there is prolific use of large trees foliage with different hues of green and olives in Rathore's work the image of paper boat is used as an allegory. The depiction of a boat in many cultures is an esoteric custom. Hathor the famous Egyptian Goddess was often attributed to The Living Soul of Trees who traveled around the world in a boat. The votive candles placed in a paper boat which floats down the river in commemoration of the beloved is also a ritualistic practice followed in parts of China and Japan. Likewise in Rathore's work the presence of both paper boat and tree make a very assorted statement of being in a despicable state with a delusional destiny ahead. The white painted boats revolving around the swirl in her painting Tide of Hope' (Fig. 3.) seem like confined thoughts surrounded by a cluster of organized distortion.
Another of Rathore's painting The Harmony of All That Is' (Fig. 4.) looks like an optic nerve or a comet. The color and the painted boat with thread of time suggest rage and opposition and the impressionable stages of transition. The bold and bright creativeness cannot be controlled and it is going beyond all the boundaries even breaching the frame of the painting itself.
Quest of knowing and exploring through the unknown paths always lead to a marvelous destination. Rathore's work seems to be expressive and elaborative in terms of imagery and the narrative it carries yet there are many wonders ahead of her to be explored.