Blurred boundaries: Lose yourself in Rashid Rana’s ‘Labyrinth of Reflections’

The artist’s work is on display at the Mohatta Palace Museum daily from 11am to 6pm, except Mondays.

Desperately Seeking Paradise, 2007-08. PHOTO COURTESY: MOHATTA PALACE MUSEUM


When stuck in a maze, the object is usually to find your way out as quickly as possible. There is a labyrinth at the Mohatta Palace Museum, however, that you would gladly want to be lost in for a long time.

A grand selection of 73 artworks by eminent artist Rashid Rana is on display at the museum. The exhibition, titled ‘Labyrinth of Reflections’, maps the trajectory of the illustrious artist’s career over 20 years and is spread out over two floors.

The exhibition’s curators are Nasreen Askari, the museum’s director, Naazish Ataullah, a fellow at Beaconhouse National University in Lahore and Hameed Haroon, Dawn Media Group’s CEO.

While talking to The Express Tribune, Askari said that putting the exhibition together was a herculean task and it took no less than 14 months to set it all up.

“The installation was a logistical nightmare. We had to reconfigure the museum’s galleries to meet the exacting standards that Rashid Rana’s artwork requires.” She went on to label Rashid Rana’s work as “unusual” and “innovative”, saying that there was “ingenuity in the way that he chose to depict the subjects of his work”.

And indeed, the artist’s trademark digital photo mosaics, which comprise macro images made up of thousands of smaller pixel-like images, are very striking. Perhaps the most interesting feature of these pieces is the way that Rashid Rana juxtaposes two contradictory elements on one canvas to capture some of the most pressing sociopolitical issues.

For instance, in his work ‘He Said I Do But He Did Not Say What He Did’, the macro image is of the brawny Arnold Schwarzenegger charging on the battlefield with an impressive arsenal of weapons.

The image encapsulates society’s idea of a valiant, masculine soldier who go to any length to get the job done. The micro images which comprise the bigger picture, however, are of the human costs of war - gruesome images of mangled bodies, burning homes and terrified children.

In the ‘Red Carpet’ series, the vibrant array of colours seem to jump right of the canvas. As the name suggests, the macro images in this series are of intricately embroidered carpets. On closer inspection, one would realise that these visual treats are made of smaller images of something nobody would not want to catch sight of - bloody offal at a slaughterhouse.

“We live in a state of duality. The perpetual paradox, which permeates the outside world, is also a feature for the internal self. Thus, all our moves are made not in one upward way - but in two opposing directions - simultaneously,” explains Rashid Rana. “My recent work comes out of this interest in duality and the complexity of transcending the hard divides we create in our perception of images.”

The exhibition is open from 11am to 6pm every day except for public holidays and Sundays. It is set to run till the end of the year.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 23rd, 2013.


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