"The kind of library is made for me. I can decide to pass a whole day there in bliss: I read the papers, take the books down to the bar, then I go to look for some more. I make my discoveries, having gone into work on say British Empiricism; I start to follow commentaries on Aristotle instead. On getting the floor wrong, I find myself in an area, I hadn’t thought to enter, on medicine, but then I suddenly find works on Galen and hence complete with philosophical references. In this sense the library becomes an adventure.”
Everything and Nothing (2011)
Thousands of European paintings from the 16th to 19th century formulate a large image of two identical looking bookshelves, which are not so identical since one is sharp as an image and the other appears to be blurred. On closer inspection, the blurred view of the books shelf is made sharp images of European paintings and the sharp image of the book shelf is made of blurred images of European paintings: and these familiar paintings are horizontally flipped. Thus, a constant experience of registering/ acknowledging something and its absence, simultaneously signify the limitation that exists between the translation of verbal and visual languages.
From afar Language II looks like a serene abstract image. Upon closer inspection, however one realizes that the work is in fact created by an extensive archive if images of text from signboards, posters, advertisements, banners, wall chalking’s – all textual imagery that was found in a given year in the city of Lahore. Each such micro image is saturated with information-not just in the literal message but also through their laden history. This explosion of intensity comes together to create a beautiful poetic message an-in that-challenges and celebrates he very stance behind the aesthetics behind the abstract non-objective painting.
The book, a familiar product that provides information, contains knowledge and leads to emotional substance and imagination of others, is constructed into two folded reality. The distance and difference between idea and object, representation and reality are mapped and manipulated, so the pictorial surface and the actual object, even being different from one another, compliment and create an illusion of reality.
Confrontation II (2016)
For more than four hundred years, the English East India Company has evoked powerful emotions across the world. An economic colossus, it changed the course of history first through its conquest of India in the eighteenth century, then with the breaking open of China with Opium in the nineteenth century. Its impact was not just economic and geopolitical, but also profoundly cultural. Artists of its own time responded to its immensity with paintings, poetry and plays, some praising its luxurious commercial ascendency, others critiquing the raw human consequence of its dominion. Shahzia Sikander’s artistic practice can be read as part of this longue duree of cultural reactions to the company.
The figure seen prominently in this text is the East India Company Man in his ‘red coat’. Shahzia Sikander has regularly used text in her work as a mode of abstraction and it is used to frame and question both political and social issues. The Company man symbolising the power structures of the day while the calligraphic text which is fragmented and floats on the surface is from regions it colonised ie India and Hong Kong.
Unchaas with Circle (1975)
Anwer Jalal Shemza
Unchaas with Circle for instance seems to be a number’s chart – seven rows and columns of the numbers one to seven in Urdu characters, arranged so that each number appears once in each row and column. The bottom right corner has the tiny equation 7+7=49 with the number ‘49’ written below in words in Urdu script. The numbers in white emerge from black circles that measure a precise 7.7 cm in diameter. The array of 49 circles rests on a black mesh background. The mesh effect is created by dipping fine muslin in ink, wringing it out, spreading it across paper, covering it with newsprint to absorb any excess ink and then applying pressure by hand to leave an impression. The work is monochromatic: Spartan. The number themselves seem to be repeating, diagonally from right to left and from top to bottom.
Secrets from the Nautical Almanac 1966
"Upon entering the ruinous Weather Observatory building (Manora Island, Karachi), I found many old manuscripts scattered on the floor. There were hand-written ledgers (dating back to 1916); detailed weather reports; tide tables that charted the movements of the Indian Ocean; and nautical almanacs from British India and post-Partition. The nautical almanacs from 1958 – 1966, contained advertisements of communication equipment, as well as life rafts and navigational tools for the Pakistan Navy and Karachi Port Trust. The almanac pages were bookworm eaten, creating images of inverse islands in a solid sea. To this surface, I added fragments of speeches by General Ayub Khan (military dictator and president of Pakistan, 1958 - 1969). Together with John Phillips at the London Print Studio, I reconstructed the original images; separating the elements, ageing the paper with tea, reprinting the images and text, laser-cutting the bitten narrative and, finally, employing the technique of Chine-collé to mount the delicate prints onto a larger support."
Page to Page (2007)
In contrast to art which is appreciated as it is displayed on a wall, the appreciation of the Mughal miniature is more intimate. The history of the miniature albums preceded the Mughals. One of the most rewarding sections of a Royal Turko-Indo-Persian library contained albums intended for pleasurable, relaxing contemplation. The earliest examples contained miniatures, drawings and calligraphies - prototypes of Mughal albums date from the fifteenth century.
“The second book made by Khalid is very different from the first. The Birth of Venus, by its very title and by its figurative imagery, is essentially a narrative, inspired by the early illuminations of poetic texts. The title of the second book, Page to Page, already hints at its formalism. There is no figuration apart from a fabulous display of the attributes of curtains: ruffles and hems, seams and sutures, folds and facings, frills and flounces, ruches and revers, almost like an animated manual for curtain-makers or purdah-planners.”
Virginia Whiles in the Essay in "Portraits & Vortexes – Aisha Khalid"
Ayaz Jhokio makes use of newsprint to create images of politicians, considering it is the media which actually creates their ‘images ’ and their personas. Using utilitarian newsprint in from both Urdu and English language newspapers Jhokio uses this medium to create these particular portraits.
It is also interesting to note the play of words used to create text and images that these will form. One use of text to note is the word ‘Evil’ which has been used in the moustache of the former military dictator and President General Zia-ul-Haq’s portrait. Therefore these portraits not only denote the clever use of text and image, but the arc of the political history of the seventy year old nation.
A Letter From the Hour of Waiting & A Letter From the Comfort Zone (2015)
Arif Mehmood’s visual imagery is enhanced by the use of text with both handwriting as well as printed objects such as stamps used on the surface of the postcard like images. The use of text here clearly demonstrates it as a tool to evoke nostalgia and memory.
Tayabba Begum Lippi
A single word etched in graphite, but word which carries both weight and heft. Text at its simplest, yet at its most powerful form. Lippi’s art ranges from both sculpture as well as works on paper. It is the combination of the medium that she uses which renders her work unique, such as the oxymoron of creating a bed made with razor blades or as this work reveals, the word ‘Woman’ created with matchsticks. A utilitarian object used to define a complexity with simplicity.
"In these particular works in the AAN Collection, Hussain makes use of text as a tool for abstraction rather than one of calligraphy. Though, she would be using Latin script, and with such minute precision, that on closer inspection it yielded a work of abstraction rather than that of beautiful handwriting.
"Hussain not only plays with the notion of the image but that of the medium as well. Just like a few of her predecessors, who have graduated from the Miniature Painting Department at the National College of Arts she also manipulates the surface, the’ wasli’ to her will."
Amna Naqvi in the essay ‘As She Will’ in the catalogue Spaces Within – A Solo Exhibition by Aisha Abid Hussain