Exploring identities: Recreating the mundane to highlight the human duality

Shafi attempts to tear down the thick walls shielding an individual’s dual persona.

Mavra Bari May 12, 2012


Fragmented completion is the best way to describe the essence of Mohsin Shafi’s art exhibition “Dirt Under My Nails”. The sense of what is and what appears to be is a definite theme in the artist’s work being showcased at Khaas Art Gallery.

The artist has edited scraps from old compendiums, Facebook, internet images and notebooks into distorted images that still maintain an identity. His use of Facebook as a generator of images is a comment on the complex nature of identity and how time changes the way it is perceived and formulated.

“I question the blurred edges between identity and the intentions of identity, attempting to capture what I see,” Shafi told The Express Tribune.

The artist shared that he is fascinated with the idea of people’s private lives and the superficial display of their public persona. “When guests come over, they are confronted with artificial smiles during rite of passage moments such as birthdays and weddings, but none of the ordinary days that we struggle with are documented.”

This pre-occupation makes him a keen observer of the mundane in life. A gritty image of a ceiling fan is encapsulated in a video cassette denoting nostalgia, transience, and, ironically, stagnation.

His monoprints and pop art allow him to explore these aspects of the human condition in a contemporary and minimalist way. Owing his style very much to 21st century post-modernism and the post-World War I Dada movement, Shafi has managed to inculcate their defining characteristics in a more relevant projection of the latest visual techniques.

Using material from his own life, he is attempting to bring the private life in to the public realm. “I’ve used my friends and family in my work to make it more personal,” said Shafi. The aim was to achieve self-realisation, which is not possible when thick walls shield an individual’s dual persona.

He has used the frames of the gloss used for wedding pictures and toned them down to go with his angst-ridden images. The artist has presented his work in numerous exhibitions all over Pakistan as well as abroad. He has a Bachelor in Fine Arts from NCA and a Masters with Honours.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 12th, 2012.

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