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Artist explores British urban landscape

By Soraya Sikander
January 28 2013




An exhibition of Soraya Sikander’s paintings was held at the Unicorn Gallery, Karachi, recently. The exhibition in the tradition of visual experiences showcased a variety of artworks projecting both joyous and sombre moods simultaneously. An oxymoron. One witnessed a dazzling display of fifteen art works which captivated my attention. A wide array of compositions in moods upbeat and colourful showcased the walls, and compositions of urban London with sights of Wimbledon, views of Battersea, Lord’s Cricket Ground etc. were showcased with an originality and freshness of vision. The colour choices here are unusual and the compositions are refreshingly novel and original. Soraya’s take on her choice of subjects is both cutting edge and futuristic. These are views and perspectives projected on the canvas from the mind’s eye too. A view from the Lord’s cricket ground has an interesting perspective despite its minimalist treatment. She leaves it for the viewer to fill in the details; however, the composition is ready to hold a conversation with the viewer. As we identify with the work further, we are immersed by the uniqueness of her approach. The work is positively cutting-edge.


Lords’ Cricket Ground, Oil on canvas, 16 by 20 inches


The Battersea landscape attracts the viewer by its myriad cornices, and enclaves, which the building encapsulates. We find a touch of romance in the projection of her subject. Here, the city of London becomes an encrusted jewel in an almost topaz like backdrop shinning its radiance through the composition. The contrasting colours morphed into a single composition lend an aura of fantasy and Soraya the artist glides us through her Alice in wonderland style into a journey of exploration. Suddenly, the cosmic beauty of London becomes a bejewelled city in a global cosmos unravelling its beauty and majesty in colours of blue, pink, turquoise and colours that create a kaleidoscope of artistic symphony. London a bejewelled city suddenly claims its place in the comity of nations, as its crowning jewel.


Battersea, Oil on canvas, 16 by 20 inches


Soraya continues this exhilarating journey and we witness a paper, with a burst of red encrusted within a gray, black and white city landscape. This work of art stands apart by the sheer mastery of its detailed drawing. Here the elements of architecture fused into a landscape combined, explore and deliberate to create an urban landscape that is full of hidden symbols both literal and metaphorical and narrative in nature. This visual experience is transmitted on paper with dexterity and certain panache. Once again, the romance tinges the composition and we meander through her urban landscape feeling heady and definitely upbeat. From this point, the viewer begins to experience a downer and we are treated to an array of urban landscapes that are both sombre and contemplative.


The many cities I have known, Gouache on paper, 53.5 by 23 inches


There are the trees within the trees within the foliage and its corresponding roots, shoots, and the marshy subterranean swamp that holds us wrapped up in its enigmatic imagery. The dower gray, the sombre black hint of a mood that is mildly melancholic. Here, in the city of Karachi, Soraya Sikander experiences her journey inwards, yet, the Slade School of Fine Art, UCL influence is apparent on her canvases without being overbearing. It’s almost as if the bipolar effects of the two cities are reflected in the artworks that they mirror. Karachi the city of now, holds us down, its mood dower yet, we feel, that beyond lies both hope and an uncertain future.


Black landscape, Oil and Acrylic on canvas, 36 by 48 inches


Soraya Sikander’s work heralds a new approach. Her works may be both futuristic and cutting-edge however; she has been able to break through the barriers of known imagery and accepted art norms. Her current work has been received with kudos and seeing the red dots and the bustling activity in her exhibition one was able to determine that the work has sold and has been very well received. She has learnt to fly without fearing the perils of her solo flight. Her work has carved a special niche for herself in the contemporary art world. – Zainab Jaffri.


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