Cross Roads by Haris Sheikh : an artist’s journey


LAHORE: A solo exhibition by Haris Sheikh titled ‘Cross Roads III, a Sufi journey’ opened at the Alhamra Art Gallery on Wednesday. 
Haris Sheikh is a Pakistani living in Canada, whose work is largely reminiscent of his diasporic location and the discourse originating within this discourse. 
‘Journey in Solitude’ is one of his works that was displayed at the Alhamra Art Gallery. The subject of the painting is the whirling dervishes. It uses various shades of the deep coffee colour to represent a powerful, energized inner self. The theme of the painting is a satisfied material life and its relationship with inner peace. According to Sheikh, “This is only possible through companionship.” He uses the symbol of the whirling dervishes, because he thinks it has become a universal symbol of peace and with this he draws his inspiration from the poetry of Rumi. 
One of his other works on display included a tile mosaic titled, ‘Prince on Horse’. The work is done in glazed tile, which is traditional to Islamic art. Although this mosaic is a copy of one those glazed tile mosaics that are found in the Lahore Fort, there is something noticeably different about it. Sheikh has added perspective to this drawing, an element that is totally absent in traditional South Asian art. 
‘Komagatumaru’ was another interesting painting at the exhibition. This painting uses themes such as the Sikh rebellion, the ‘Ghadar Movement’, against the British Empire; and tolerance and unification within the Diaspora as the focus of this painting. The painting shows the Golden Temple as the central piece of identity. ‘Komagatumaru’ will be displayed at the National Archives in Canada on the 100th anniversary of the Sikh rebellion. 
Another one of his important works was a painting called ‘Hijab’. Hijab shows a woman with a ghoongat, the Eiffel Tower and skyscrapers in the background. The underlying theme of this piece of art is the Islamophobia in the West that Muslim communities living overseas have to encounter on a daily basis. Sheikh said, “I don’t see why France, which prides itself as a secular country should have a problem with a few Muslim women donning the headscarf.” Referring to the headscarf controversy in France, Sheikh called it a “manufactured phobia”. 
“Art is a beautiful medium, it liberates people from barriers of language, ethnicity and regionality. It is universal medium that holds its message in a universal visual medium that immediately transcends racial barriers. Through my work, I try to create tolerance among people because if a piece of art represents reality, it will be interpreted and seen by everyone I the way it is supposed to be seen, representing the same reality for everyone. It is an attempt to represent the collective consciousness,” Sheikh said, talking about the themes and subjects that he chooses to paint.
The exhibition was inaugurated by Punjab University Vice Chancellor Professor Dr Mujahid Kamran and attended by many artists and department heads of various art schools in Lahore, including Maliha Azmi Agha, Munawwar Mohiyuddin, Maqsood Butt and  Amjad Mukhtar. 
The exhibition will remain open until March 22. 

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