Suffering in ceramics at the NCA
LAHORE: It is a thematic expression in ceramics, a thesis built on the aftermath of war and the misery, hopelessness and agony it leaves behind. It is a display at the National College of Arts by Saniya Bhutta, a graduating student whose work is joined by many of her colleagues in individual displays around the college campus.
As Ms Bhutta explains, by fusing organic shapes (which she uses to represent life and animation) with symbolic reminders of death and war’s consequences, she aims to express an anti-war message that goes to the core of the soul. It is a message that she wants everyone to understand. Dialogue, not force, is the way to end international conflict, says her display.
Most of Ms Bhutta’s pieces link botanical forms like seeds and bamboo with missile heads and other symbols of war. Often in cloudy, morally ambiguous colours, her organic forms are corrupted or damaged in some way by their association with war, a thematic statement about the affect conflict has on normally-healthy life.
Taking a prominent place in her display was a series of barren tree trunks – withered, rootless, and with only holes where branches might have been. Ms Bhutta explained that it was inspired by the story of Ali, an Iraqi boy whose house was hit by a US bomb. Ali not only lost his family but also his arms and legs. “I was touched by the accident. These trunks depict children and human beings who lost their limbs during the war,” Sania told Daily Times on Monday.
Also prominent are a series of small, smoky square tiles marked with obscured impressions of leaves. These are intended reminders of the soldiers who die during wartime. Families receive only medals in place of a lost child, parent or partner, medals which can have no value in comparison to lost ones. “These medals cannot bring the person back”, she said. “Every soldier who died left an impression, and I have tried to portray that impression with these ceramic leaves.”
Hundreds of small, identical pots in different colours lay scattered around some of the displays and piled seemingly carelessly along one wall of Ms Bhutta’s display. “These depict empty shells, wasted husks. They represent mass killings, genocide and the piles of the dead. When the potential is taken out from the person, by war or anything else, he or she is nothing,” Saniya explains.
A popular centrepiece of exhibition was a large, brooding sunflower sitting flat on a tabletop and dedicated to the Taliban, its seeds shaped like bullets. Across from it, tiles with different sized holes form a statement about the relative power of different modern weapons.
A piece on one wall is an intricately connected bas-relief of female figures. Their arms end as tangled branches and their legs as gnarled roots, twisted over and through each other’s limbs to form a copse of faceless, female trees. This, Ms Bhutta explains, portray her struggle and failure to convey her own message to her own satisfaction. “These figures are faceless like me. I don’t have an identity as yet. I can’t convey my message to people I want to convey my message to”, she said.
Ms Bhutta’s is only one of a large number of similarly intriguing displays at the NCA, including design, textile, miniature, sculpture and other art forms at the public exhibition on The Mall which will remain open until Wednesday.