These are extraordinary times which require exceptional measures to keep things going.

The phrase ‘new normal’ is being thrown around, justifiably so. Who would have imagined that a few months back one would think many a time before stepping out of the house to buy groceries, leave alone to go to a music concert or visit an art gallery. Well, necessity is the mother of invention, they say, therefore now almost all those things that can be viewed on the internet have gone online.

Along the same lines, a virtual exhibition organised by the Artciti Gallery opened recently. Somewhat expectedly, the show is called The New Normal.

According to the introductory note to the exhibition, more than 20 artists had been working for the past two months to ‘embrace and accept’ the year 2020, exploring the changes that have been brought about in our lives by the coronavirus pandemic. This sounds interesting given the fact that all the participating artists have formidable credentials; surely, their interpretation of what we’re facing these days will entail both the frustration of living within the confines of four walls and the resilience to see life eyeball to eyeball with a fair degree of optimism for the future. Well, seeing the images of the artworks on display, it can be safely said that the artists have done justice to the idea.

What the viewer will immediately notice in the exhibition is certain objects and terms that have now become part of our everyday routines, including use of language. For example, masks. One has seen in art the mask as a symbol of duplicitous character of a layered being; this time around, it has assumed a meaning which signifies a regular pattern, something that’s, in a manner of speaking, part of one’s personality.

Then the word ‘lockdown’ has made its way into the mix. Those creative souls who have employed it as their works’ titles have underlined both its impact on our individual existences and as members of a community. And all of that has been translated onto the canvas with the kind of verisimilitude that’s needed for effective storytelling.

The artists who are taking part in the exhibition, which concludes on July 30, are: A.Q. Arif, A.S. Rind, Abrar Ahmed, Akbar Ali, Ali Abbas, Farrukh Shahab, Hussain Chandio, Iqbal Durrani, Muhammad Rajub, Mashkoor Raza, Moazzam Ali, Mughees Riaz, Nadir Ali Jamali, Noreen Rashid, Qamar Siddiqui, S.A. Noory, S.M. Fawad, S.M. Mansoor, Salman Farooqi, Shazia Salman, Shiblee Muneer, Tanweer Farooqi and Zulfiqar Zulfi.

Originally published in Dawn, July 26th, 2020

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