ISLAMABAD: Pride of Performance winning artist Akram Dost Baloch was hosted by the Satrang Gallery in a collection of new works titled ‘Identity’ that drew diplomats, art students and critics to the gallery.
Mr Baloch, who was present at the exhibition, appreciated the gallery and explained that his recent work “is a contemporary dialogue with my preferred periphery: Balochistan, its people, land and environment”.
“The blank-faced people in my paintings and wooden reliefs depict reminiscent of a time when social oppression was the norm and artists craved opportunities to express themselves. My colours are picked directly from the rich palette of the exquisite dresses and rugs of my beloved land.”
Mr Baloch’s images depict the untold stories of people who face the harshest socioeconomic conditions the country. The backgrounds are dusky and rustic with hues of orange and brown that are not able to detach from the air of sullenness, even when the landscape is suggestive of streams and fresh fields.
The artist added: “I looked for ways to express how people in my work are pondering over the dilemma of identities. In my paintings people are hidden behind their own layers. Men exist behind turbans and beards while women are hiding behind their veils. The blankness in their eyes speaks a language of their own. I always want to share through my paintings and wood carvings the several untold stories of my beloved people.”
Jamal Shah, the director general of the Pakistan National Council of Arts, said: “The artist and I come from the same province; we were in the same class together at NCA. As artists we started redefining art and we started questioning what art is for us. We believed that art is a necessity, which is why we continued being artists. Otherwise in those times it would have been easier to do something different.”
He added: “The good thing about Balochistan, despite it being very, very backward and in the periphery, is that the people of Balochistan are rooted; they are not confused about their identity and that is the strength of the artists of Balochistan; that is what affects their art.
“Artists transform societies, it is the best possibility to change, the safest means of communication because it never destroys. The thing that is different about the art and artists in Balochistan is that their art reflects the struggles of their fellow beings living under historic situations facing hardship, struggling – sometimes winning, most of the time, losing. The traditions and history of Balochistan strengthen Akram’s imagery and I congratulate him on an exceptional collection.”
Satrang Gallery director Asma Khan said: “Satrang is honoured to host this exhibition of a phenomenal body of work by the maestro Akram Dost Baloch. His imagery is not only a visual treat using bold colours and strong lines with traditional motifs but a socioeconomic narrative of society and his people.”
The exhibition was inaugurated by French Ambassador Martine Dorance, who said: “[Mr Baloch’s] works have great finesse, phases and periods, much as Picasso. In this collection he is presenting the faces of people who look desperate, searching for identity and the paintings are strong in emotion, pushing us to think about the situation, our destiny and our own identity.”
Commenting on his stature as one of the eminent artists of the country, she praised his decision to share his knowledge, talents and techniques with the students of the Balochistan University in Quetta.
Published in Dawn, January 18th, 2017