Reviews

Mehreen’s art gallery “MAJMUA” opens with a flair

A new addition to the art galleries of Karachi is “Majmua”. Its inaugural was an evening extravaganza with a performance of Kathak dance by well known Nighat Chaudhry followed by a lavish dinner. Even the invitation card could be a collection item, because of its size (13” x 10” without folding) and attractive design.

It was an evening perfectly arranged by Mehreen Elahi. Entrance at Fatima Jinnah Road, behind Sind Club, was beautifully illuminated with ‘Diyas’ and colored lights. It was a ‘Farshi Nashist’ (Sitting on floor with big round pillows)-cum-chairs, where invitees awaited the entrance of Nighat Chaudhry.

When barely a year old, Nighat had gone to London with her parents. There she was fascinated with ballet and joined the Laban Centre for movement and ballet rambert. Her passion for ballet and contemporary dance died when she saw Nahid Siddiqui performing the Kathak. Nighat seriously took up the Kathak. For some time she was a student of Nahid Siddiqui at Birmingham. She moved to Lahore, where she trained under Maharaj Ghulam Hussain Kathak, a disciple of Achaan Maharaj of the Lucknow school and the ‘Ustad’ of Nahid Siddiqui.

Kathak is a court dance and was adopted by the Hindu courts of Rajasthan. Subsequently it found appeal in Muslim courts of Delhi, Oudh and Agra. Rhythm and purity of actions are the main features of Kathak. Being a court dance dancer has to control her movements with perfection and mobility. Nighat kept the audience spell bound for about 40 minutes.

Before Nighat’s dance we had the time to visit the art gallery on the first floor, where we met young Fahim Hamid Ali, who had helped in arranging all the work; an impressive collection of art indeed and perhaps the largest in the city.

Over 130 paintings by Raja Changez Sultan, Qudsia Nisar, Jamil Naqsh, Mansoor Aye, Fahim Hamid Ali, Mashkoor Raza, Anwar Maqsood, Shireen Maqsood, Faraz Maqsood, Tariq Javed, Maqsood Ali, Mohammad Yousuf, Zawar Hussain, Iqbal Geoffery, Iqbal Mehdi, Ghalib Baqar, Roha Ghaznavi, Hussain Amber Aslam and Zohair Siddiqui are on display and feast to eyes. Apart from paintings, antiques and objects D’art candle holders and sculptures are also on display.

Tariq Javed with 44 paintings is followed by Fahim Hamid Ali with twenty two, mostly calligraphy. Tariq Javed with moustache and long hair with a ponytail give san impression of an artistocratic Bohemian on the West Bank of Paris. We had talked to him on phone once and met him in person along with his soft spoken lade wife. Tariq used to teach art at PECHS Girls School. Some body asked him why he had no long hair when he was at PECHS. His retort, “There every body had long hair. I wanted to be different”.

There we also met after a long time, Mr and Megum Mohammad Ali Siddiqui. We knew Mohammad Ali Siddiqui Saheb from his ‘Pakistan and Gulf Economist days’. He is a iterary giant and is a regular contributor to daily Dawn and other leading dailies and covers literary scene.

Immediately after Nighat’s performance dinner was served. Food was delicious and in plenty. Chicken Biryani, Kebabs, Mutton Tikkas, Lamb pieces on brochet nans, Raita kept everybody busy, with cold drinks and ice cream followed by tea.

Elegantly dressed in black Sari, charming Mehreen Elahi was a perfect ostess and deserved all the congratulations for organizing such a memorable treat.

Mehreen by her own rights is a well known figure in the social and art circles of Karachi. She has delved in fashion modeling, acting, production, concept design, photography, advertising and writing. She did her bachelors in communications media with emphasis on TV and masters in film production. From America she has studied art at the University of Florence, Italy and Spanish Civilization at the University of Valencia, Spain.

With her “Mamua”, Mehreen would like to “build a bridge to promote and exchange of ideas about art in Pakistan as well as other countries”. She would like to “put together ‘Majmua’ with international promotions in Paris and New York.” No doubt Mehreen will be able to bring to ‘Majmua’ some of the world’s renown pieces of art. She has the talent and she has the means.

There was Sahera Kazmi, and Rahat. Most of the time Sahera was with Nighat. It seems that we would have a change to see Nighat’s performance on NTM one day. There was Shakeel with his charming better half. Dawn’s Asif Noorani with his charming wife Ajmal, Rooha Ghaznavi, Mr.Saeed Ahmad and his elegant wife.
They have returned from Saudi Arabia, Saeed for starting a consultancy firm. Tall and handsome Salman, who had performed leading role with Fazila Qazi, in a NTM short duration play sometime back, was also there and proved to be an angel for us.

Salman, a popular figure arranged our meeting with Nighat Chaudhry, and his so many friends. He got us tea and then left back to our abode. Shaheen Jadoon of the Theatre Junction, a soft spoken young man, dropped us at our home.

It was indeed an inauguration with a style. Mehreen and her associates must have put in a lot of effort. We wish Mehreen all the success in her venture. She will definitely succeed in her ambitions and make a place for herself in the field as well.

By Sheni Humayun
Daily News

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MAJMUA adds a new look to the city's artscape

A sweet and suggestive name for, not a girl, but an art gallery! Why not? A collection is the end product of artistic activity. Ghalib claims to be doing just that. The Majmua was scattered and he was collecting it, the records and renderings of love:

“Taaleef-e-nuksha-haa-e-wafa kar raha hoon main
Majmua-e-khayal abhi fard fard thaa.”

The paintings and a variety of other art work collected by Mehreen in her new gallery, too, is a collection of recordings of love on canvas and in clay or on the loom, for the work of love enhances nature’s.

Conveniently situated across the road from Sadequain Gallery, it is a quiet, elegant retreat for the lovers of art. Its first offering includes studio-fresh work by Qudsia Nisar, Jamil Naqsh, Mansur Aye, Maqsood Ali, Tariq Javed, Laila Shahzada, Anwar Maqsood and others, some of which the artists were coaxed and cajoled to do specially for the occasion, as in the case of Mansoor Aye. He was persuaded to do some work in his very early style which has high popular appeal – the teenage girls decked in flowers, against a woodland background, like some nymphs of the wild. They are painted in thick outlines and flat bright colors and a simple, spontaneous style. Over the years, Mansur has varied and developed his style much but his work always remains cheerful, bright, carefree and lightly dashed off.

Jamil Naqsh began exhibiting about the same time as Mansur Aye and worked very close to each other but the former has developed a quite different style of highly meticulous and conscious artistry. His work is rarely seen in exhibitions because he can sell directly from his studio. It is creditable that two large drawings have been rendered in swift sweeping strokes of the brush using Indian ink. The figure drawing is economical but apt. There is also in the show a small water color painting with Cubist area divisions that make a very puzzling design out of a nude figure.

Maqsood Ali began painting in the 60s when he was enamored with Sindhi scenes and people, their dresses and other cultural appurtenances. He was glorifying Sindhi culture in a realistic style. Then out of chequer board patterns of embroidery on Sindhi women’s dresses, he evolved Cubist compositions and continued to make many subtle changes and innovations. Now after a quarter of a century the wheel has come a full-circle and we find him again realistically painting Sindhi women in all their rustic finery. Of course all the experience gained by working in abstract styles has added a new dimension to his present day realism but again it is a sign of the times that he has chosen to revert to figurative work just to show that the smoldering fires of his long love affair with abstraction have not died, he has cast a piece in metal in which together with other forms, there are glimpses of the squares and chequer board patterns that had become almost a signature of Maqsood Ali.

There is work by two other Maqsoods in the show – Shireen and Faraz, both upcoming artists. It seems that art is being practiced at family level by Maqsood as by Jamil Naqsh – whose daughter Mona and niece Najmi Sura are already well known.

Tariq Javed has put up only one painting, containing the same grouping of various large polygons (squares, rectangles, half circles and others) each in different color and divided by white lines. He has done this for years now but is on the way to abandoning it. He is devoting all his time now to ceramics and sculpture. In this show he has put up a score of glazed vases and pots of various shapes, which are largely traditional except for ingenious new caps and tops. Again, his wife Saghira too is a ceramist.

Noteworthy are the calligraphic paintings by Fahim Hamid Ali. He has invented a style of writing Bismillah and other Quranic words and phrases that is very much like English “script” with long strokes nicely curved at the transitions and flourishes at the end. The distinctive quality of the style is imparted by the extra elongation and the tilted angle in which the words are written with the brush. The background is textured and sprayed with dots. In small sizes this calligraphy looks good but in one large panel, it looks rather sparse and thin.

No doubt the exhibition is dominated by the work of Raja Changez Sultan whose work is not familiar to Karachiites because he lives in Islamabad. However, the five big canvases he has put up here give a fairly good idea of his work. In each he has painted, big and bold, one or two full or half figures of women, some nude. They are all lost in mist, sometimes grey or bluish mist, sometimes orange. The faces and figures just glimmer out of the dusk. This fuzziness and suggestiveness gives a romantic touch to the work. It is all quite subtle and attractive.

DAWN, April 8, 1994
By S. Amjad Ali

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Picture taken at the Exhibition held at Majmua Cry For Peace shows the Cheif Guest at the Exhibition Amjad Ali watching the display paintings of the artists along with Mehreen Elahi, Mrs. Mansoor Elahi and others at the occasion.

MAG, Feb 8, 1996

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A fair wind blows for art in Pakistan; a new gallery ventures forth

Considering the aesthetic crisis which has assailed the nimble and not so clear fundamentals of the artistic sensibilities in our country, especially where abstraction is frowned upon and realism is scoffed at, the persistent doggedness of the gallery owners is certainly an encouraging sign. They are promoting art, albeit in their own ways.

Though the prime interest of the gallery wallahs remains commercial, yet, in the process, art too gets a substantial boost, for the twain are mutually dependent and supportive. Since the whole exercise is not done in isolation, but seeks to establish a two-way dialogue, it generates interest and attracts attention – as much of the connoisseurs (who seldom buy), as of the moneyed buyers (who seldom understand the finer points).

Galleries provide a platform where a work of art is exhibited, reviewed and evaluated, both in terms of artistic merit and commercial value. Hence the establishment of a new gallery “Majmua” (collection) should be welcomed. This new art gallery which has recently been opened at 239, Staff Lines,
is being run by Ms Mehreen Elahi, once a dazzling model, now a serious film-maker who is doing her Masters in Film Production in the USA and is completing her BA in Communication Media.

“Now, on my return to Pakistan and seeing the art flourish and blossom, I am inspired to get familiar with the renowned artists and their work, and this gallery intends to introduce and promote Pakistan art in Paris and New York,” Mehreen explained.

It is good to see another gallery coming up in the “heated up” art mart of Karachi, where galleries take pride in keeping up high standards of art-shows despite the fluctuating commercial possibilities.

Though the erratic behavior of the art marts cannot be dismissed, yet, over the past few years some signs of financial stability have been quite noticeable. The general trend looks bright and hopeful for more than one reason: the scheduled exhibitions are well organized and well publicized in the local press, previews are carefully planned and openings are arranged with high profile public relationing, which means that prospective buyers, in particular, are invited and properly attended to. Every gallery cultivates a clientele of its own.

Such consistent efforts, spread over a period of four decades, created a climate wherein awareness for art was nurtured. By now, painters have become a known commodity and buyers are served with a wide range of choice to select from. In the meantime, art has also acquired a fad value as a status symbol. Now paintings, apart from their artistic merits, are also being accepted as items which can bring a sort of “display effect” in the houses of the affluent, in as much as these “arty-crafty things” go with their drawing-room settings.

As it is, art all the world over needs extra pampering. More so in Pakistan. Always fragile money wise, the economic feasibility of art here is clientele based, despite aggressive salesmanship of some gallery owners. The galleries have become full-time sales venues, bridging a gap between the artists and the public, providing a permanent platform for such commercial exchanges.

However, the boom period has also brought in some negative trends, as an eminent gallery owner complained that comparatively easy access to the galleries has made the artists believe that whatever they paint would sell.

“They begin to paint for the money and think about nothing but a big-bucks commercial deal,” he said.

Has commercialism resulted in deterioration in the standards of art? Are the artists just playing to the gallery?

Whatever the answers to these questions may be, a healthy rivalry exists amongst the galleries, which obviously augurs well for the future of art in the country.

The opening of “Majmua” is a fair indication of the way the wind is blowing. The newly established gallery is selling big names like Jamil Naqsh, Mansoor Aye, Laila Shehzada, Qudsia Nisar, Mashkoor Raza, Tariq Javed etc. Each has earned his or her name working consistently over a long period of time and has established credentials on solid footings – and they are likely to sell well. Good luck “Majmua”.

By Hameed Zaman
Daily News

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Sham-e-Ghazal - A melodious evening at MAJMUA

Majmua, the Art Gallery organized an evening of ghazal singing by Shakila Khorasani. Ghazal is a form of poetry, the literal translation of which means ‘conversation with the beautiful’.

It may be a tete-a-tete between two lovers or man and his God. The poem is in the form of couplets, each expressing a complete thought. The traditional style of ghazal singing was based on ‘ragas’, sticking to the restrictions of particular branches of the same and the performance was classical to the extent of being developed presentations of ‘thumries’. However, the present form of melodic compositions of ghazals have gone through many changes and now there is an aesthetic blending of ragas – improvisations suited to the moods of the lyric and not to forget the complete modernization of instrumental arrangements accompanying the ghazal singer Shakila’s style of singing is a blend of the traditional and the modern with a streak of adventurism in the melodic aspect, along the lines of her mentor, Ustad Mohammad Dilshad Khan and Hariharan. Her forte is her range and rigorous training in classical singing. Even though most of her repertoire consists of contemporary poetry, she is equally adept at going back more than a hundred years to Mirza Ghalib and Mir Taqi Mir. She reminds her audience of her great predecessors, Begum Akhtar and Madhurani. She rendered the ghazals with feeling and confidence and full grip over her audience. Every body present thanked Mehreen Elahi for providing a melodious evening to lovers of ghazal singing. With the passage of time, Shakila has improved a lot and has grown into a mature ghazal singer.

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