LAHORE - Eduard Pernkopf, an Austrian professor of anatomy and a fervid Jew, created a medical atlas called Pernkopf Anatomy during World War II. The cadavers which are seen in the medical illustrations of the atlas were interpreted later as the bodies of the victims of Nazi concentration camps! What made that revelation to occur! It was the physical condition and the air those dead bodies were retaining in those anatomical drawings. The dubious nature of that anatomy book was proven later or not but sympathy was communicated, emotions were stirred.

Not because of having a neurotic mess, it is due to the fact that man by nature is a story teller. So he finds stories out of most unlikely of places and things. In the clouds, on washed out painted walls, in a wool ball, two people talking, on an old face or in a worn out pair of shoe! Man finds stories everywhere! And this human capacity comes to great help when it comes to art as in art there is an ongoing search for meaning to communicate in most effective and efficient ways. In pictorial arts that search is fostered via various visual languages. Narrative is one of them and is used as a vehicle to make stories that simply float in time or connect past with the present and the present with the subsequent. A set of rather subtle language is used in the works of 9 participants in a recently held show Peculiar Sanity at Mussawir Art Gallery Lahore.

Anum Baig, Aun Raza, Farhat Kiyani, Mavra Khokhar, Noor ul Huda, Unab Sumbal, Zainab Aziz, Zainab Mehmood and Zunaira Sultan are recent graduates of College of Art & Design, Punjab University Lahore who have used simple yet compelling semantics to share their stories of social, cultural, political or personal notion. The images are not violent or aggressive even if a lot is happening on the surface.  Instead of covering with blood, part of a slaughtered animal is wrapped with its body charm surely conveys certain kind of beauty and not anything of violence or repulsive nature! In another visual, by leaving it untreated or black and white, a mob is shown as simply a group of ambivalent figures who follow blindly whatever they are being told.

The stories which are created in the works also serve as a good source to get an insight of their maker. In order to generate compelling narrative, through which a truthful bond is built, artists in the show have primarily worked with the values that resonate close to their selves hence leaving a strong impact.  The idiosyncratic formal quality of Mavra and Noor’s work has created an ingenious uncanniness. They have used their immediate surroundings to convey stories of their now and here.

However, at times a narrative conveys beyond culture and time as in Zunaira’s metallic heads and a torso. They could belong to any part of the world regardless of nationality and race! Imagining is a potent device. Without revealing too much and letting viewers to take part by visualizing where they find themselves fit in that story is an invigorating equation which is apparent in Kiyani’s and Zainab’s work. Zainab’s figures despite of floating in time and space are recognizable thus they make us stay in the present while Kiyani’s featureless face transcends the story beyond time and space.