Viewing the work of artist Hanif Shezad, one enters with nostalgia the Karachi of yester-years. It was a time when there was less traffic on the roads and the architecture of the city was a proud, distinctive sight. Featured in his work are the streets and markets - Bhorie bazaar and Jhodia market - with the bustling shoppers and the various aspects of light and shadows of a passing day.
Hanif Shezad is a Civil Engineer, who took his art training from the Karachi School of Art where he was a prize winner, always looking for means of expression. Initially he worked with collage to create texture in the beautiful watercolour artworks he created. He went on to work with oils and enjoyed using mixed media to create the effects he visualised in the finished artworks.
Shezad’s favourite subject is the city he knows and loves so well, and in the exhibition shown at the Artciti Gallery, he titles the collection: `Rhythm of Kolachi,’ an earlier name given by the fisher folk of Makran and Balochistan who built their villages in the city.
Karachi has been known by many names throughout a history which includes powerful Alexander the Great, all drawn to the city by the natural harbour. Merging his training and abilities as artist and civil engineer, Shezad’s admiration for the city is matchless. He dwells on the old architectural magnificence of St. Patrick’s Church that he paints standing with dignity against a backdrop of luminous clouds, and he portrays the various stages of the Mohatta Palace; works of art that are museum pieces.
The artist’s first exhibition was held in Karachi in 1989, and he went on to show his work in prestigious exhibitions in many countries of the world. In the series we discover at the Artciti Gallery, as well as the historic monuments, he highlights the bustling crowds around the markets, with dramatic contrast between a dark night sky, brilliantly lit shops and streets and the silhouettes of old buildings.
Shezad appears to capture the essence of the street life, and the unexpected grandeur of the city in its varied moods. Included in the series is a fascinating history of the landmark structure, the Mohatta Palace, shown in earlier days and in the grand presence of our times. A similar treatment is given to Frere Hall and its surrounds, now an important centre of cultural life in the city.
Alas the very busy streets are not now as wide and clear as in the artist’s imagination, but , one considers – just as the remnants of a Moghul era are treasured in Lahore, so may Karachi’s inhabitants appreciate a city that has adapted to various era’s and still retained a core dignity.
Through the artist’s vision we see Karachi, impressive in the dawn light and in the golden shades of sunset. He brings to life, the essence of the street life, and the unexpected grandeur outlined by the street lights and traffic at night.