Alar balar baway da, bawa kanak leyaway ga, bavi beh ke chatey gi, 100 rupaya watey gi. Artist-sculptor Khalil Chishtee constructs a silhouette of a soldier using rusted iron and engraving this Punjabi lullaby onto it using Urdu calligraphy. Titled Sweet Dreams, the work is Pakistani artist Khalil Chishtee’s response to a statement by a Pakistani general that Pakistani citizens sleep peacefully because of the army. He found it ironic that “the institution responsible for its country’s unrest is claiming that they are the reason for its peace”. The work is one of the 10 installations that make his debut solo in India, ‘Between The Lines’, curated by Ashna Singh of Studio Art gallery.
In the exhibition, Chishtee, who learned the art of calligraphy from Lahore’s master artist Sadeqain, also reflects on his childhood memories in the aftermath of the Partition and the political ups and downs in the country. “Khalil transforms the political turmoil, chaos of the past along with his personal struggles in these compelling visual experiences. He wants his art to comment on the world and develop a deeper understanding of our own experiences, and it does exactly that. The metal and calligraphy can get repetitive, but then there is so much background, story and depth in each work,” says Singh.
The exhibit opens with the work Cause and Effect (pictured), where a small mosque at the bottom is overpowered by a huge cloud, it depicts the sounds of the azaan heard every morning. Here the artist comments on the importance of religion in our lives and how it overshadows the other beliefs and people decide not to question it. In another work, Ancestral Tales, where the man is about to join a war, leaving his family behind.
While in Desire and Desire II, the artist constructs a charging bull with Ghalib’s famous nazm, Hazaaron khwaahishein aisi engraved on it. Here, the artist underlines the desire and obsession to conquer, win, and control. “These wars have led to the loss of innocent lives, escalated egos, personal struggles between good and evil, religious exploitations and instability,” says Chishtee in a press statement.