An online exhibition opened on Wednesday bringing together the work of 24 contemporary artists who used their imagination to reflect on collective fears and spread positivity and hope during a time of isolation.

The exhibition, titled Alienation, was launched by Zainab Omar’s Artcade and curated by Roma Ali. It features the work of Mediha Kamal, Zahra Mansoor Hussain, Mehrbano Khattak, Rida Khan, Sadaf Mirza, Mahnoor Malik, Zarmeen Akhund, Qirat Soomro, Fatima Khan, Maheen Hashmi, Sidra Ali, Fatima Ameer, Faiza Taufique, Khushbakht Islam, Nayab Tahir, Qurtulain Memon, Ujala Khan, Amna Rahman, Waseem Akram Solangi, Farrukh Adnan, Shireen Ikramullah, Maham Hamza Amir, Sana Shah and Misha Sheikh.

“The past few months have recalibrated the very notions of normalcy,” Ms Ali said, adding: “Our everyday life has become confined to the limits of our homes while we grapple with events at a global scale. The thoughts about uncertainty and isolation organically make way into the works of these contemporary artists who have used art as a medium to bring out underlying emotions and send messages of hope and escape to many in solitude.”

Zarmeen Akhund is a digital media artist based in Karachi whose work focuses on materialising spiritual journeys, while Misha Sheikh is a young artist who is working through the troubles of ‘online’ art school and aspires to make her artwork the voice of the unheard.

Waseem Akram Solangi belongs to Dadu in Sindh. He said his work is based on image and text.

“Images serve as the main character and the text is an illusion, a contrast to the image. I paint on newspaper surfaces to erase existing images and affix my own. Therefore, the composition that comes together is conflicting. My main focus is the viewer’s mentality. Sometimes, we see certain things but our mind triggers an alternate thought process. I explore this idea of relating varied images with irrelevant text,” Mr Solangi said.

Fatima Amir said she interpreted the theme of Alienation during the coronavirus pandemic “as a feeling of being isolated from human interaction.”

“The image depicted in the painting is an analogy of how an astronaut would feel in outer space. The plant she is holding in one hand is in hopes that during this time when Mother Nature is recovering will bring better days for humans in the future,” she said.

Mahnoor Malik reflected on the unexpected changes in lifestyle that the pandemic has brought about.

She said: “After 26 years of successfully avoiding the kitchen like the plague, I not only find myself cooking during this pandemic but also enjoying it. The pressure cooker and I are not friends yet, but we’ll work on it. I made this painting to remind myself and others of how impactful this year has been on all of us and has given us reasons to grow and explore our own lives in so many ways.”

Mehrbano Khattak said that her work engages a “multiplicity of themes”, adding: “I try to intersect nature and human in minimalistic styles that spark new and unexpected meanings. My works have more of a modern setting as I am genuinely inspired by the complexity and intricacies of visual communication design. The subject or context in my work mainly revolves around day to day personal experiences and narratives.”

Fatima Khan’s painting ‘The Golden Book of Life’ was inspired by Michelangelo’s ‘Creation of Adam’.

She says: “The world is changing, it is healing, there is light at the end of the tunnel. For me this suffering might be inevitable for humankind to embrace reality and stop living an artificial life. The string which was connecting us to nature has been broken but as we have stayed home, listened deeply, prayed, meditated and learnt new ways of survival, we are actually meeting our own shadows, and in the process, we are healing. Once the pandemic is over, we would make new choices, dream new images and create new ways to live and eventually heal the earth fully.”

Originally published in Dawn, July 16th, 2020