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Work of Artist Charming Odyssey

Work of Artist Charming Odyssey
In a recent exhibition by Henri Souffay, held at the French Consul General’s residence in Karachi, one discovered diverse influences of his varied travels to countries including China, Thailand & India. Previous displays work of artist's in Karachi had shown his interest in architectural elements of old buildings, cumulating in extensive exhibition inspired by the detailed patterns of the stone edifice of the Mohatta Palace.
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  • Now, once again living in Karachi, teaching at the Alliance Francaise, his recent work included a series of bridges, arches and towers, communications linked by his singular technique and a style bordering on the miniature. Souffay uses soft pastels as his medium, layered and brushed across paper surfaces, creating a pale blush shade as background for images made of minute marks. Building images of tiny tiers of bricks, he begins with a thin, basic pencil outline, using a fine Rotring pen. Patiently, he combines volume, light and shade till the desired effect is reached in a technique resembling pointillism.

  • A sequence of work inspired by the legend of the lost treasure of Marco Polo was interpreted by the artist in three exquisite images of ships and a Chinese Junk. Patterned with minute detail and exotic coloration, they are seen sailing over the skies of places he reveres; Beijing, the village of Lalla in northern Thailand and the Great Wall of China. The artist’s technique creates a dream-like effect. He explained that in the Marco Polo legend, he began by first drawing the boats, and then other elements came into the work. “Sometimes I get the feeling that the image gets made by itself.”

  • Souffay’s love of miniature art and his great interest in the architecture and culture of the Mughul dynasty was deeply influenced by a visit to Agra, and the legends surrounding the Taj Mahal. He began drawing his impressions, later in his studio, combining detailed elements in imagined vignettes. One particular artwork consisting of a wide balcony overlooking the Taj Mahal, took months to complete. It began with the balcony and began to fill with objects, jewel inlayed columns, a carpet with cushions and a hookah, pink and gold edged curtains flutter, and delicate slippers scattered across the floor.

  • The sequence continues to include visions floating in the air, a classical dancer-homage to Sheema Kirmani-the time is daybreak & she dances to morning raga. Musical instruments are included & birds fly. Souffay’s work is incredibly delicate, full of exquisite detail and highlighted with colours that often defy description. A strong element in the work is the awareness of time suggesting that nothing really changes & art is eternal.

  • Viewing the artist’s portfolio, one discovered a series totally in contrast to the beauty found in dreams and legends. Here is a superbly delineated, dark series of disintegrating grandeur, crumbling libraries, dungeons, deserted halls with broken chandeliers, a series open to enigmatic interpretation. Henri Souffay is a self-taught artist and a superb draftsman. The precise observation that inspires the wondrous imagination of the artist creates visionary work that is a joy to behold. He may well be the reincarnation of a Mughul miniaturist of old.

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