Subcontinentâ€™s pieces are unique in that they are more than just exquisitely restored antiques. Sonia Rehman has used her eye for design and her considerable artistic talent to carefully enhance pieces with miniature-like paintings, cow-hide seats and other eclectic touches. Some purists may argue that this amounts to little for than vandalism of valuable antiques. Sonia is keen to refute any such idea: â€œI am passionate about authenticity and have always been very careful about restoring antiques. I am well aware that restoration and tinkering can affect the value and legitimacy of antiques. One of the reasons this exhibition took six years to put together was that I scouted for pieces that were as undamaged as possible. For the few items that were broken I was careful to match the wood and type of glue in the restoration process. Nevertheless there were some pieces that needed more than simple restoration.â€ The collection also included many practically untouched pieces such as a rosewood and camphor chest and a Guldasta chest.
Soniaâ€™s artistic eye was telling her that she could do so much with some of the pieces but such was her fear of damaging the antiques that it took her two years to pluck up the courage to pick up a paintbrush. The results are breathtaking. Sonia is a talented artist and her depictions of miniature-like paintings on Antique chests, chairs and desks are inspired. Sheâ€™s used stains that wonâ€™t damage the Furniture and muted colors that complement the time-worn pieces. These arenâ€™t simply restored pieces of Antique FurnitureÂ they are works of art.
Sonia did not paint all of the artistic pieces herself. She commissioned a couple of young artists from Indus whose work has a completely different feel such as a red desk painted with a telephone.
Soniaâ€™s work received an enthusiastic response from the varied visitors to the exhibition. These heirloom pieces are in excellent condition and retain all their original features, including the original brass. The quirkier pieces, such as Voyage chairs made out of old suitcases also had plenty of fans. However, the undoubted hits of the exhibition were the pieces that Sonia had herself painted. The gorgeous muted colours, the sensitivity to the provenance of the piece and her sheer love of antiques shone through in the diverse pieces.
A particular favourite was a cylinder bureau [pictured] that had been painted with Orteliusâ€™ first modern map of the world, dating from 1570. Sonia described how she painstakingly traced and then hand-stained the map onto the teak and Bombay sheesham desk. The map has raised an already beautiful item to the realms of the extraordinary.
Another standout piece was the Padshanama chest [pictured], an armory chest painted with scenes from the Padshanama. A 7-foot bottle bar that has been in a Parsi family for four generations before they emigrated to Canada also attracted a great deal of attention. Sonia had chosen to embellish this with Moghul type scenes of elephants and soldiers, completely transforming a rather kitsch piece into a classic.
Subcontinent Furniture was careful to display the provenance and history of each piece. Features such as the type of wood and period of each item were meticulously recorded. There was plenty for traditional Antique lovers as well Soniaâ€™s beautiful artistic pieces, which are undoubtedly destined to become heirlooms in their own right. Subcontinent is a welcome addition to the Furniture scene in Karachi.