Paintings capture Lahore’s social fabric, diminishing heritage

ISLAMABAD: An exhibition of artwork portraying emotional attachment to cultural life, loss of heritage and fragmentation of social fabrics of Lahore began on Wednesday.

The online show, held under the aegis of Nomad Gallery, titled City Dwellers by self-taught artist Kamal Hyat depicts his pain about the fading cultural and architectural heritages.

The paintings are the outcome of his 10-year quest for rediscovering his old memories and heritage of the city after his return from Islamabad in 2010.

The painting ‘Companion’, ‘City Dwellers’, ‘Old Gymkhana Club’, ‘Inner City Residents’, ‘Ranjit Singh’s Samadhi’, ‘Old Tollington Market’ and ‘Roadside Barber’ show the loss of fond memories, fading cultural and architectural heritages.Talking to Dawn, founding director of Nomad Gallery and Shanakht Trust Nageen Hyat said: “Kamal’s latest exhibition reflects on his roots and the multiple reasons of their meanings. His space is not merely receptacle for the forms, but as an independent element in itself, balanced and diverse.”

Kamal has held half a dozen solo exhibitions since 2006 at art galleries in Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad. His last exhibition, which was held at the Alhamra Art Gallery, Lahore, in March 2014 was well received, both by professional artists and art connoisseurs.

After an absence of five years since his last show at Alhmara, Lahore, Kamal has once again staged a comeback in post-coronavirus scenario with his recent and some old works.

The paintings are rich in texture, simple in style and in subdued colour palette. Some of the figures depict real life situations.

“These paintings were done over a period of time and reflect different interests at different times,” Kamal told Dawn.

“Some of the earlier ones are about Lahore, because it is a city which one relates to most, not only because the major part of one’s life, including school days and college days, were spent here, but because Lahore is a city one keeps discovering again and again. Its history, its people, its personality, its warmth and its food gives one a never ending subject to think, write and paint about. Very few cities in the world would provide you the scene of a ‘Roadside Barber’, setting up shop under a tree and carrying on his work oblivious to the public, the rickshaws and the cars passing by. Both barber and client are equally comfortable with their surroundings,” he added.

In the painting ‘Silhouette’, Kamal has remarkably depicted three persons in dark shadows around a table with knife, fork and a plate laden with food, blending multiple perspectives.

Talking about the fading memories of Lahore, the artist said: “The older generation gets older, and so it was important to capture Old Tollington Market,which was nearly demolished but saved by an active civil society not wanting to let go of its heritage. At one time it was a bustling shopping centre, visited by all those people who later moved to Liberty Market, Al-Fatah and The Malls. The Tollington Market had a myriad shops, where buyers and sellers knew and trusted each other and built a camaraderie and personal relationship lost now forever.

Similarly, the ‘Old Gymkhana Club’ in Lawrence Gardens was the scene of ballroom dancing and children’s Christmas parties, which continued much after the partition but now remain just faint memories of a bygone era.

In the paintings, ‘Ranjit Singh’s Samadhi’ and the ‘Inner City Residents’ he has captured scenes of Lahore, its history and people.

The more recent paintings reflect on the fast changing world such as the ‘Woman in Blue’ is a pensive portrait representing a mood that alternates between an uncertain future and hope in a world which is in disarray. Whereas the ‘Woman in Orange’ represents a positive approach in these difficult times – as if she knows that this too shall pass.

In ‘Protective’,the artist has highlighted the need to protect “our future, not only from climate change but from all the injustices and chaos you see in the world today”. The online show will continue through September.