Belinda Eaton at the A.N.Gallery, Coconut Grove, Karachi

A western nari in the eastern world

Belinda Eaton grew up in Kenya and Spain and was educated at St. Martins School of Art, London, specializing in printmaking and etching. When she arrived in Karachi in 1995, she was like Alice in Wonderland in a land where men dye their beards in blazing red; carry decorated pigtails tied to their vehicles as a momento of their sweethearts living hundreds of miles away in tribal areas; where dancing girls please men and men throw rupees, even dollars on them and women sell papayas on the street. “Magic Realism” is not just a literary term, but a hard fact. Her mysterious symbols which she coined and experienced while in Kenya, could be met and seen right here in the streets of Karachi.

The exhibition of her “magical” paintings opened here recently at the A.N. Gallery, Coconut Grove. Belinda has exhibited her work in London, New York, Spain and now in Karachi. Her recent interests include textile design and growing herbs and their scientific plantation. Her obsession with textile design and her search for oriental patterns has enabled her to discover a colourful spectrum and has given her a sense of colour juxtaposition. Like textile designs, her images are big and precise, imbued with a generous palette. Here exotic motifs have been exploited with dramatic effects. Belinda’s colour arrangements change with the slightest touch of a kaleidoscope and her perspective expands and compresses like the bellows of an accordion.

The dazzling light in her paintings highlight the decorative elements of Pakistani culture. Perhaps she is searching for a contact point via cultural moorings. The faces in her work show a kind of frankness, a sublimation, stemming from the honest and sincere approach towards life and human relationship. Belinda’s faith in humanity is genuine and vast, like a Dickensian gallery of portraits – Pakistani characters moving to complete a world of exuberance. The human comedy completes its circle in her canvases – men, women, bullfighter, rickshaw driver, dancer, shoe-seller, matador, fish, lizard, turtle, strawberries, papaya and Cadillac, all are there to celebrate their existence.

Her interest in the cultural life of Karachi, and in the local people who orchestrate it, is amazing indeed. In our art circles where figurative art, in particular portrait studies seems to be losing its value as a genre, Belinda’s studies are excellent. These portraits are sociological documents in a way, and could revive fresh interest in this art form. These portraits, contact points for Belinda, have been translated in visual terms with sympathy and feeling, exemplifying her passion for the eastern way of living. Her figures are in an emotive state of frankness. They are not complex-ridden and are open-hearted, keen to establish a dialogue. She extends her welcome with a sense of human fraternity and meets them halfway without any reservation. She is a foreigner without any complexes.

Her colours are luminescent and compete for supremacy in decorative compositions. She is especially fond of rich and pure colours which attract onlookers like jewels. This is not a work of cerebral brooding or pessimistic foreboding , it’s a world of vitality. Belinda Eaton is a painter of urban reality and freely uses visual metaphors of urban living. As she grew up in Kenya and Spain, she is not afraid of irrationality and can accept the illogicality of the situation as a natural norm. She is not scared of the unknown and relies more on faith than attempting to find an explanation. There is a lot of the East in her metabolism. She has all the cloning possibilities of being an eastern nari (damsel).

Hameed Zaman
Karachi, 1997