Muscat: When artist Sara Riaz Khan visited the old Lahore Fort and mosque in Pakistan, she was saddened by the state of disrepair the buildings were in, but also found beauty in their remains that inspired a poem and a series of paintings.
Sara, who is a British-Pakistani teacher and artist based in Muscat, will show her work in an exhibition called 'There is Beauty Yet' which opens on Tuesday night at Bait Muzna Gallery. The paintings have layer upon layer of oil paint and gesso on the canvas, colours and patterns scraped and exposed, like archeology on canvas.
"These are two landmark monuments for the city of Lahore and I was just struck by how little it's been looked after. I was disturbed by what I saw and I was very keen to create something positive from what I saw," Sara told Times of Oman.
While Lahore's Mughal-era buildings may be slowly disintegrating and in need of protection and reparations, they have been given new life on Sara's canvases and in a poem she wrote following her visit to Lahore Fort in which she writes about the state of disrepair but the hints of beauty that live on.
The paintings are full of rich colours, ranging from intensely deep fuchsias and turquoises, to warm earthy and mossy tones. They draw on the colours Sara saw while wandering through the 16th century fort. "The fort is mainly in sandstone which is a kind of bright pink, but there is also marble, and there is a lot of fresco painting, so there is all sorts of pigment. There are many colours to choose from, so the hardest thing was hiding the colour," she said.
The decay and neglect of the Lahore Fort is apparent on the canvases, and it speaks of the approach Sara took while painting. Sections of paint were covered over and reworked, all part of the process of creating the final result.
"For me it was a very emotional experience because I felt I was covering over areas that I found beautiful and I was going through the loss on canvas," she explained.
The geometric shapes common to Islamic art and architecture are revealed in some of the canvases, as are the shapes of the arches. Three of the paintings also reflect a room filled with mirrors in which light reflects back onto the space.
Sara's work speaks to her attachment to her culture and her desire to honour it, something which Christine O'Donnell, Bait Muzna's gallery director, recognised immediately. She was attracted to the work which is rich with an emotional attachment to Lahore's Mughal past and communicates a strong message.
"They're aesthetically sound and pleasing. I love the colours and I knew there was something behind them because of the layers," O'Donnell commented.
'There is Beauty Yet' opens at 7:30 tonight at Bait Muzna Gallery. It is sponsored by Mistal and will be inaugurated by HH Sayyida Tania Al Said. It will be on display until December 1.