These days the phrase ‘historical amnesia’ has caught the fancy of those who are interested in the British colonial rule in the subcontinent, or anywhere else in the world for that matter. The phrase was recently used by Indian politician Shashi Tharoor to highlight the fact that the British don’t talk, hence have conveniently forgotten the loot and plunder that they committed while they ruled over India. A two-person exhibition titled Painting Amnesia at the Canvas Art Gallery touches upon the same subject with a difference: while it does take collective amnesia into account, it also puts the spotlight on the personal facets of collective lives.
Zahid Farooqui sets the tone, literally and figuratively, for the theme of the show. The scenes that he creates in his artworks are distortions of the scenes that, as per Aristotle’s theory of probability, may have happened, happened or will happen. The viewer keeps looking at his astounding untitled works to get a definitive answer about its meaning. This is done impulsively because the viewer, at some level, identifies with the pictures that he sees in the paintings. The word that Farooqui has used to describe his effort is ‘deconstruction’. This is true, but it has heavy philosophical connotations, whereas his artworks are stating simple facts through disfigured grey images.
Ahmed Ali Manganhar, too, does not allow the viewer to have a clear view of what he’s trying to convey, though he opts for a route that has more colour in it. He does that because he, in his statement, talks about growing up celebrating Lansdowne Bridge in Sukkur in class II textbooks. To his mind, “We continue living in the land they [British] carved for us.”
Manganhar keeps things in the private domain with exhibits such as ‘Night Conversation’ (acrylic on canvas). A closer inspection would suggest, for instance in the case of ‘Under a Date Palm’ that he is trying to explore the community aspect of private life, which is easily forgotten once we shift from one social setting to another. This is his way of painting amnesia. And a good one, at that!
The exhibition will run until March 22.