There is a perceptible difference in the role and status of women in different societies and cultures around the world. Keeping that in mind artist Seyhr Qayum tried to find out through her paintings what status our society established for women - liberal or conservative in a solo exhibition titled "We Are All Mad Here" at Canvas Gallery, Karachi.
Her paintings some times surreal and other time bizarre tackled the said issue in her style. Women usually tried so hard to fit in the parameters of society that they lost their real identity.
Many times perceptions differ from reality and the reality was not understood by the people creating confusion and mishaps in women's lives. And this scenario explained the title of the show because everybody seemed to be mad just like the movie "It's a mad mad mad mad world" a time came when a woman
realize that "We Are All Mad Here".
Sehyr very beautifully though in a semi-abstract style portrayed the subject of discussion in her paintings. The basic theme of her work was woman's position in this world particularly in our country.
The paintings titled "The Real Ring Mistress", "How Many Stunts 'Til We Have Some Fun?" and "I've Got Another Trick Up My Sleeve" showed nude figures of women in a circus setting performing different acrobat tricks symbolised how women had to juggle her life between household work, children, husband and if doing a job an additional work load. But no one seemed to be satisfied with her no matter how hard she tried she failed in other people's eyes although actually she was doing a good job both at home and at office but nobody seemed to appreciate her courage and strength.
Thus there is lack of female identity in our society. People wanted to see a woman in a set pattern living a life devoted to her family where her presence has no importance until she died. And this vicious cycle continued from mother to daughter since decades.
Now Sehyr wanted to change old perceptions and boundaries that was depicted in a painting titled "Hey Give Me A Pen; I Am Going Re-write This Narrative" showing a goddess standing on a cloud in the sky surrounded by children. And another grey painting titled "Now That's A Weight Off (/On) My Shoulder!" also followed the theme.
Paintings titled "Desi Mona Lisa", "Up on Cloud 9", "So I Guess This Is What We're Doing Now" revealed the supposed role and status of women in our society presenting women tangled in wires and behind walls, distorted, strange and unusual devoid of colours and freshness just like a dead soul completely lacking signs of life.
While paintings titled "Here's Looking at You, Kid" and "It's Showtime" portrayed women in a trilled mood and in colourful makeup and dress as if going to deviate from the norms of society in which they do
(The writer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)