Sometimes the most beautiful creations emerge from the darkest parts of our being. That's how I felt looking at the vividly painted, incredibly detailed and brilliantly imagined gardens at an exhibition by two sisters in Karachi recently.

Khadija S. Akhtar held an exhibition of her work with her sister, Rabia S. Akhtar, called 'Gardens at Rest'. The exhibition at the Canvas Gallery left onlookers in awe. Khadjia's work was focused on capturing the fleeting joy of what once was. Her collection was an intimate journey through which she was recovering episodic memories, processing her trauma and questioning her history.

She appeared to be seeking and depicting quiet places of comfort and adding such detailed beauty to them, as if to drive away the unending sadness brought upon by episodes of depression. Her section of the exhibition was a story of triumph, filled with luminous beasts that roam free, gardens that take on a life of their own, abandoned decadent picnics and wilderness unleashed.

Jaan, Khadija S. Akhtar

There were no humans present in her work and, even with all of the detail, there was a haunting emptiness in the paintings. It was as if the artist craves human attention and closeness, yet thrives in alienation. The body of work was complex and all of its aspects were not immediately apparent at first glance.

Through vividly painted gardens, two sisters depict beautiful, fantastical worlds born out of darkness and an existential threat of extinction

In contrast, Rabia's gardens, while sharing many elements of her sister's work and style, had a more 'zoomed out' perspective. While her sister's work showed everything up close, with Rabia's paintings we took a few steps back.

The gardens and its inhabitants appeared smaller and there was space to breathe...

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