“Pain and pleasure are interlinked. We often come around people willing to put up with some pain to look beautiful. Beauty is not found everywhere… not everybody has it,” says Sara Aziz whose work went on display at Rohtas 2 Art Gallery on Thursday.
The show, titled Painfully Beautiful, carries eight pieces created by Aziz using various materials, including brass, copper and silver. A digital print on Hahnemühle paper is also on display.
“While I was studying for a bachelor’s degree, a lot of my work was autobiographical. When I started my master’s, I focussed on feminine beauty – figuring out normative standards for it and the price one is willing to pay to achieve it,” says Aziz who did her bachelor’s in fine arts from the University of Dundee, Scotland, in 2010 and master’s from the Beaconhouse National University (BNU) in 2014.
“I created contraptions that may be used by women to enhance their looks. I did a lot of research and wrote a 100-page paper on feminine beauty in Pakistan for my master’s degree,” says the artist who also teaches art history at the BNU.
“It relates to several cultures and eras… once a norm has been set it often requires one to look different from what one naturally does. I think this correlates with social status and wealth.”
Aziz’s humour leans towards sarcasm.
“The Nose Mould is a contraption that can give your nose a perfect shape if worn over a period of time,” she says explaining the use of the gold-plated piece.
“In Pakistan, there is a lot of concern about how your nose is shaped. A plastic surgeon told me that 50 per cent of his clients were from the lower economic strata who believed that things like a well-shaped nose mattered a lot in determining one’s prospects for marriage,” Aziz said. She said the practice was similar to the Chinese custom of foot binding.
Another piece, called Neck Elongator, is made of gold-plated brass and copper. It has been embellished with pearls and meenakari paint.
“It is a neck brace that helps elongates one’s neck to a desirable length. The digital print shows me wearing it. Meenakari paint on it relates to our history and culture.”
The Pouter helps one get an actual pout. “The side wires push the cheeks inwards. A tulip-like plate in the front pushes the lips out. The idea is that if you wear these things every night, you can modify your body. It is scientifically proven,” Aziz said.
The Face Lifter looks like a hair band. Through the tentacles attached to it, it gives the wearer a face lift by pulling at their eye brows, pushing back the crowfeet and pushing in the cheeks. The Frown Fixer helps fix frown lines.
Aziz’s four silver necklaces carry embossed characters which at first stance look like Arabic calligraphy but are actually English. The words are sexy, skinny, hot and fair.
“It is unusual for people to be willing to go in a not-so-well-trodden direction,” said Salima Hashmi praising the artist for novelty in her work. “It requires great motivation and belief in oneself to do the sort of work that Sara has embarked upon.”
The exhibition will continue until October 22.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 10th, 2015.