A leafy front entrance beckons visitors into this spacious Karachi home. And then the elegant wooden gate opens to reveal unexpected treasures. Bold, dramatic artworks dominate every living space and the art is, in fact, the defining feature of this residence. The home owner, who is an avid art collector, has built up a large and eclectic collection over the last ten years.
The journey began when she took inspiration from her older sister and brother-in-law, who live in Malaysia and are prominent art collectors there. The couple have, in fact, collaborated on a coffee table book on Malaysian art.
Impressed and moved by the art they had amassed, this collector started buying Malaysian art at first. But after a while , she was advised to start focusing on Pakistani art.
On entering the outside patio, one is welcomed by a magnificent yet whimsical Buraq titled ‘Ride’ by Hamra Abbas. The Buraq is an iconic image in our folklore and mythology and the artist exhibited these in a set of three in bright colours. Interestingly, the artist has substituted her own face for that of the Buraq in this work. This coupled with the choice of material, colours and the fact that it is depicted as a rocking horse, a child’s toy, is significant. The artist dislocates objects from their familiar contexts and adds new and often multiple meanings to them.
The bat installation hanging in the patio is also one of the collector’s favourites. By artist Seema Nusrat, it is at the same time playful yet sombre. Made of metal, the bats reflect cityscapes and the darkness of the urban experience.
Stepping into the foyer feels like being transported into an art gallery. The space is dominated by another dramatic piece by Hamra, a giant baby grappling with a serpent. Titled ‘It’s a Boy’, the figure is a throwback to the baby depicted on the bottle of the ubiquitous Woodward’s Gripe Water. “The sculpture was originally placed to one side of the room and I had the usual console table, lamp, flowers etc in the foyer,” says the collector. “Then I said to myself ‘Forget this!’. And I moved out everything else, brought the baby to the centre of the foyer and let all the art dominate the space.”
The soldier standing in the foyer is by Adeela Sulaiman. Titlled ‘I am the Guardian of His Words’, it seems to be standing guard over the home and its treasures.
A large black cube and another cube separating into rainbow colours is another striking work by Hamra Abbas. Titled ‘Kaaba as a Misprint’, the form references the Khana Kaba as well as the splitting of the four colours which go into the printing of black.
Another magnificent canvas occupying an entire wall is by Malaysian artist Hamir Soib whose hallmark is works on a grand scale. “In fact, this painting would be a medium-sized work for him. There is so much going on in the painting. The longer you look at it you will keep noticing details; images and references emerge from its depths.”
Another sculpture by Seema Nusrat, tiled ‘Brave New Worlds’ can be seen peeping in though a window pane. It has been artfully placed amidst foliage which is the perfect backdrop for the organic feel of this work.
The window pane also reflects a colourful wheel displayed inside. This is Hamra’s work titled ‘Every Colour is a Shade of Black”. The irridescent wheel is reflected in the window panes and other glass surfaces in the room to almost kaleidoscopic effect.
Moving further, some striking figurative works halt visitors’ in their steps. Titled, A Casual State of Being in a Soul Hunting Haven’ these works are by the renowned Anwar Saeed. His work offers a discourse on masculinity and identity in Pakistan. The conflicts are both internal as well as external and the paintings depict this debate through the representation of the figures.
More abstract and expressionist work adorns the living room walls. Most of the larger works are by Malaysian artists and among the collector’s early purchases.
Stepping into a side verandah area, a massive ear jumps out. This piece by Amir Habib is titled ‘Selective Listening’ and is a clever social comment on the level of detachment and lack of connection that plagues a generation today.
A striking yellow and black work is another of Seema Nusrat’s creations tiled ‘Future Scapes.’ It is another representation of the cityscape and urban fields of experience.
More paintings and sculptures line every inch of walled space in the stairwell and the upstairs landing. Orange plexiglass spades hang playfully above artfully executed abstracts. The spades are by talented emerging artist Suleman Faisal from his show titled ‘Orange Sisyphus’.
The walls of the dining room come alive with more Malaysian art. Most are by prominent artists and showcase a variety of techniques including skillful prints on aluminium and collage-like canvases.
A ceramic horse on wheels by Malaysian artist Umibaizurah Mahir sits below the wall art. The work is part of her Secret Toys series in which the childish appeal of the toys draws the observer into a multi-layered subtext of socio-economic commentary.
The collector is passionate about every single piece of art in the home. It is a deeply personal collection curated to satiate the senses of the owner. For visitors then, it is a wonderfully immersive and fantastical journey into the collector’s playroom.
Photos by Naeema Kapadia