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Fresh Cream, Again

Works created by four young artists during a residency organized by VASL in Karachi, Pakistan.
By Quddus Mirza | May 2007

The Urdu term ‘Taza Tareen’ relates to the notion of freshness. This freshness is often implied in connection with the delicious local dishes, cooked in hot oils or with sweet substance oozing out of freshly baked delights. But lately the term found another usage/place – in art. (Probably it is the nature of art and the fate of the world that everything is bound to end up as art, otherwise it perishes!) Not long ago, the Vasl initiated a residency programme for young artists, called ‘Taza Tareen’, in which new artists work together and share their ideas.

This has brought a swift change to the art of Pakistan. VASL is an organization composed of visual artists. It arranges residencies for local and international artists, with the help of Triangle Arts Trust [1]. This activity is significant for Pakistani art, which – like many other places – is still dominated by the gallery and occupied with private collectors. Actually this focus on private buyers has influenced the practices of our artists, who aim to produce ‘objects’ for domestic/aesthetic consumption. It has further led to reducing/limiting the idea of art to a painting, sculpture, drawing, print or miniature. Due to this understanding, the initial nature and objective of art (an entity that can challenge existing norms/tastes/concepts) has been slowly diminishing in our art world.

In this scenario, the VASL workshops helped revive the essence of creative activity, that art is an experience in form and ideas – rather than an excuse for object making. Thus, art does not necessarily require a permanent space and is not limited to a tangible item. This frame of mind helps change the typical idea of art, and it was seen in the works produced by such artists as Hadia Moiz, Seema Nusrat, Irfan Gul and Wajid Ali during the recent 'Taza Tareen' artists’ workshop, held in Karachi. All of these participants are young practitioners, belonging to various art institutions in Karachi and Lahore. Hadia is a trained miniature painter, Irfan graduated in textile design, Seema pursued sculpture as a student and Wajid studied painting.

With their diverse backgrounds that led to a variety of techniques and multiple formal concerns, four artists created different works during their period of residency. Usually residencies of this sort provide the occasion for an artist to question his or her methods of working and ways of thinking. And it is often required or presumed that the work produced during the residencies must bring a change in styles and process; but looking at the ‘Taza Tareen’, the VASL residency exhibition, one realizes that the four artists retained their independent approaches and maintained their distinct voices.

Hadia Moiz, along with a metal structure, showed a number of miniatures dealing with the issue of space and its link with fluctuating forms. Her delicate lines suggested spatial tension between various constructions made of fabric, which encircled space. This depiction of space, on the one hand, encompassed a visible area; it also indicated the internal arena. During her residency, Hadia Moiz added glossy paper and stickers to her miniatures. The decision to use this cheap and commercial material was a way of questioning the validity of tradition and inquiring into the scope of heritage, which is perceived as the indigenous (if not the only) form of visual expression in our surroundings.

Seema Nusrat's large-scale sculptures, were inspired by the oversized, off-white rolls of paper found in the warehouse opposite to her studio. These pieces bore a remote resemblance to the human body, besides some other odd forms that could be interpreted as birds or beasts. Multiple folds of endless lengths of paper helped create an ambiguity in her pieces. She explored the same treatment of layers – of materials and meanings – in her two-dimensional works, as well. In these pieces, she placed a grid scheme of the face of the founder of the nation on top of ordinary pages from the newspaper or advertisements for beauty products. It was a way of realizing and reiterating the complexity of the world in which we live, which is loaded with the sentiments of nationalism and at the same instance exposed to the demands of the global economy and worldwide marketing.

Another artist, Irfan Gul, revealed a different aspect of the world in his surroundings. In his works on paper, he suggested shapes associated with female body or the process of human reproduction. Sensitive lines and tiny marks signified certain parts of body, yet, due to its subtle imagery and sensitive rendering, his work could not be confined to the category of illustrative drawing. The tactful choice of colours and open compositions introduced an element of abstraction in his works. Like him, the fourth participant, Wajid Ali, used ordinary images to fabricate his highly personal visuals. Open spaces viewed through doors, walls, vast fields and the relationship between man and his environment were the main concerns of his work. Often he employed the Surrealistic sensibility, but the quietness of his painting made it seem like a personal interpretation of the world, besides having a lyrical overtone. His canvases, empty of pictorial areas, alluded to various ideas – including the emptiness of the soul or the disappearance of meaning from art.

Whatever the meanings or references one could draw from his work or from the works of other participants in the residency, one is aware of the vitality of concepts and freshness of approaches found in these works. This is an element that was expected from the artists, who are in an early stage of their creative lives. The exhibition indicated their links with traditional subjects and conventional mediums, yet they were able to create works that dealt with the issues common to everyone; and at the same time, their voice was individual, unique and innovative, fulfilling the reason and goal for holding the VASL residency in Karachi.


  1. Triangle Arts Trust: International network of artist-led workshops and residencies.

Quddus Mirza

Artist, art critic and independent curator. Director of Zahoor ul Akhlaq Gallery at the National College of Art Lahore, where he also teaches painting.

Taza Tareen II
Exhibition of works produced during the VASL residency

2 - 5 April 2007
Commune Artist Colony
Karachi, Pakistan


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