Painting a borderless home

Five artists explore their roots and memories to create visual narratives.

Rabia Ashfaque September 22, 2010

KARACHI: It was not what they had in common that brought these five young artists together, but what they did not.

Studying at the Central St Martin’s College of Art and Design in London, Pakistani artists Seher Naveed and Marium Agha were still getting used to the idea of living away from home when they met Manali Shroff, Ivy Hon Mei Chan and Jo Ying Peng.

Together, the five artists began to explore their roots and memories to create visual narratives that went beyond their own realm of existence and slowly started to grasp the meaning of being at home, away from home.

This was the birth of “Homepage”, an exhibition that opens at the ArtChowk gallery today (Wednesday).

A study of the real versus the representational, “Homepage” talks about a person’s quest to find a space, real or hypothetical, that can be identified with on a personal level. And for the five young artists from Pakistan, India, China and Taiwan, it represents the idea of belonging to a borderless home.

In her work, Naveed explores the idea of physically living in one urban space and virtually being part of another. She went to London with the intention of exploring her interest in cityscapes and has been working with urban landscapes ever since. It was perhaps this desire to find a balance between her surroundings and her roots that made Naveed call her visual journey “Living in a window punctuated world”.

Naveed’s interest in lines and perspectives developed into a three-dimensional body of work that holds a distinctly architectural quality to it. She has constructed, de-constructed and manipulated geometric forms to represent her constant struggle between permanence and change. “Once in a box”, “A forest I knew”, “The leftovers” and “Time pieces”, the strongest images in her body of work, realise her state of limbo and a desire to find some middle-ground. These red and white pieces strike a strong contrast that seems to clash and come together all at once.

“By seeing what we look at, one develops a relationship with an object,” was Agha’s take on the subject. She sought to do away with the idea of preconceived notions, demanding that the viewer develop a “relationship” with an object without tainting the experience by looking at the object in any other context or framework. In her work, Agha uses influences from her home and symbols of the society she had left behind when she went to London. For her, a “failed democratic government” and an “apathetic Muslim” populace added to the confusion of being an individual who existed in such a setting.

Shroff’s paintings were suffused with the surrealism of the everyday. The Indian artist took inspiration from visions and eccentric encounters in her daily life, incorporating images of people, insects and animals to create what can maybe be described as urban folktales. A particularly interesting piece, titled “Love and lust (2)”, realises the concept of fatal attraction - that of a moth to a flame - Shroff’s take on the subject being to replace the moth with a swarm of flies and the flame with a light bulb. Other particularly captivating pieces by the artist include “And the world calls us Colonial Cousins” and “Hark Hark -The dogs do bark”.

Chan’s work held an almost hypnotic quality. Her pieces, created primarily out of pencil shavings, dealt with the transformation and reconfiguration of quotidian objects. By showing “familiar things in unfamiliar ways”, the Chinese artist not only explores the characteristics of materials, but also the cultural and symbolic meanings of objects.

“Between arrival and departure” was the title of the body of work created by the last artist in the show. In her series, Peng, an artist from Taiwan, explores the relationship between the real and the figurative through sepia toned images.

The show will open today between 5:30 pm and 8 pm and will continue till September 30.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 22nd, 2010.


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