Jan 17, 2010 - May 10, 2010

Resemble Reassemble

Devi Art Foundation

Devi Art Foundation

Resemble Reassemble
Curated by Rashid Rana featuring Abdullah M.I. Syed, Adeela Suleman, Ahsan Jamal, Aisha Khalid, Ali Raza, Amber Hammad, Anwar Saeed, Asma Mundrawala, Attiya Shaukat, Ayaz Jokhio, Ayesha Zulfiqar, Bani Abidi, Ehsan ul Haq, Fahd Burki, Farida Batool, Ferwa Ibrahim, Hamra Abbas, Huma Mulji, Huria Khan, Imran Ahmad Khan, Imran Mudassar, Imran Qureshi, IqraTanveer, Ismet Khawaja, Jamil Baloch, Mariam Ibraaz, Masooma Syed, Mahbub Shah, Mehr Javed, Mehreen Murtaza, Mahreen Zuberi, Mohammad Ali Talpur, Muhammad Zeeshan, Naiza H Khan, Nazia Malik, Noor Ali Chagani, Nusra Latif Qureshi, Rabbya Nasser, Raju G.C., Risham Syed, Roohi Ahmed, Saira Wasim, Sajjad Ahmed, Shalalae Jamil, and Unum Babar 
Resemble Reassemble
Resemble Reassemble at the Devi Art Foundation brought together works of forty-five Pakistani contemporary artists from the Lekha and Anupam Poddar Collection curated by renowned artist Rashid Rana. The term ‘Contemporary Art in Pakistan’ covers an extremely broad and diverse spectrum. In the early years of independent Pakistan, colonial influences fused with the inevitable post-colonial quest for regional identity to produce a very distinct traditionalism. However, the last several years have seen the emergence of yet another kind of art, which is in touch with international artistic currents, less focused on parochial issues of genre and identity and more geared towards the understanding and mindsets of today’s more globalised audiences. 
Resemble Reassemble
Artists from two very distant places today can arrive at similar visual solutions or styles but from very different trajectories; the content lies beneath the surface of the work. If we fail to address this international culture and look only to ‘difference’ and ‘identities’, we ignore much of what makes our age unique. This exhibition explored how the artworks can also be viewed outside the context of particular identities and how the resemblances in the works when juxtaposed and reassembled, produce meanings which are universally true in ‘visual thinking’.
Silencers, Adeela Suleman (left) & Armour suit for Rani of Jhansi, Naiza Khan (right)
Steel silencers, steel drain covers, steel bathroom pipes and powder paint, Variable size, 2007 (left) & Galvanised steel, feathers and leather, 35.5 inches x 17.7 inches x 13.7 inches, 2007 (right)
Armour suit for Rani of Jhansi, Naiza Khan
The piece Armour Suit for Rani of Jhansi, as the title suggests, is an armour with a skirt, made by using varied materials such as metal, feathers and velvet, amalgamating fact with fiction.

It is a play on the garment like the skirt and the multifaceted personality of the Rani (queen).

Armour suit for Rani of Jhansi, Galvanised steel, feathers and leather, 35.5 inches x 17.7 inches x 13.7 inches, 2008.

Silencers, Adeela Suleman
Adeela Suleman utilizes ordinary materials in her artworks; she enjoys taking everyday items and re-positioning them to produce new meanings. The installation Silencers, sees her using steel drain covers, shower tubing and vehicle silencers to create abstract (and some not-so-abstract) references to the body, its functions, connections and attributes. 

While the work recalls themes and forms explored by artists such as Eva Hesse and Sheela Gowda, Suleman’s visual language – grounded in a gritty, urban everydayness – lends the work added piquancy.

Her decision not to disguise the domestic origins of these materials makes them more eloquent as they are fashioned to perform in new ways.

Silencers, Adeela Suleman, Steel silencers, drain covers, bathroom pipes and powder paint, Variable size, 2007.

Belt, Naiza Khan (left) & Silencers, Adeela Suleman (Right) 
Metal and fabric zip, 11 inches x 13.5 inches x 11 inches, 2007. (left) & Steel silencers, steel drain covers, steel bathroom pipes and powder paint, Variable size, 2007 (right).
Belt, Naiza Khan
At first glance, Naiza H. Khan’s sculpture 'Belt' is clearly reminiscent of a chastity belt (or it could have been a men’s sports garment or women’s flirtatious undergarment if it was made of a softer material). It could be an instrument of torture or promise of fidelity. It is oppressive, confining and liberating at the same time, and at this point can be compared to any garment such as the burqa that would serve a similar purpose. 

In the context of the South Asian woman’s survival in these trying times, it plays on the derisive connotation of the medieval chastity belt.

There appears to be a dialogue between the‘absent body’ and the belt, involving the history of female domestication and oppression.

Parallel Conflict, Adeela Suleman
Steel silencers, steel drain covers, steel bathroom pipes and powder paint,Variable size, 2007.

In Parallel Conflict, the artist incorporates silencers, drain covers, and shower pipes, effecting yet again a transformation of these items.

Suleman alters this utilitarian object and offers it as something to be looked at aesthetically without completely losing connection with its previous meanings.

Two silencers are screwed together to form one object that hangs next to another pair of these devices. Both have ‘mouths’ at opposite ends with shower-pipe ‘tongues’ dangling out; however, any dialogue is muffled.

I didn’t plan to Drown, the Nixes Pulled me in, Ferwa Ibrahim
Video loop,1' 45", 2005. Ferwa Ibrahim’s art work invokes a parallel yet ambivalent narrative through a concurrent engagement of the sensibilities of sight, sound and memory: references to a set of highly familiar things such as water, and the acts of swimming and drawing, simultaneously emerge in the course of the video, albeit in a somewhat dark atmosphere.

While the lapping of water and the sensual notion of a figure in a pool of blue pigment suggests both the logic and lyricism of swimming, the entire activity in the video is engendered with the feverish edge of a struggle with something.

This tension is the antithesis of the lyricism otherwise suggested. However, at no point in the narrative is it defined what this struggle is specifically against, for the action of the swimmer is equally a struggle as it might be play.

Mother and Child, Jamil Baloch (left) & Zero Point Ehsan ul Haq (right)
Graphite on paper, 8 inches x 9 inches, 2006 (left) & Kinetic sculpture, runs with electricity, includes two fans along with a pedestal, a chair and an iron drum, Life size objects, 2008 (right)

Shadowy figures emerge in Jamil Baloch’s work. The artist produces this effect by rubbing graphite to form portraits; in this case he shows a mother and child.

These portraits lack the details associated with this genre: facial features cannot be distinguished and it remains unclear who these ghostly figures are. We do not know the details of these two individuals; they could be any mother and child.

Ehsan ul Haq seeks to capture, control and create energy with the help of ordinary mechanisims. His installation of two fans with rotating blades leads to multiple ideas and interpretations.

The assemblage of items that can be plugged in and operated through electricity suggests a society that generates its motor or emotive forces from a source derived from the West, which has become an essential element of our surroundings and survival.

With its varying layers of implicit meanings, Zero Point represents a subtle aesthetics. Haq’s choice of working with found objects, with a minimum level of artist’s intervention, has resulted in a fabrication that is a reminder of familiar settings and surroundings.

Life  Is everywhere, Eshan Ul Haq
Basic building construction material - Earth, bricks, wooden planks, filled sacks, Variable size, 2009.

With the looming threat of terrorist acts, including suicide attacks, the urban scenario has been modified to a great extent.

Not only are guns, barricades and armoured vehicles seen regularly on every roadside, but most buildings – important public and private establishments such as offices, hospitals, courts, universities and colleges, places that used to be open to the general public – are now heavily guarded by armed personnel and protected with sandbags, brick walls and barbed wires.

In his installation Life is Elsewhere, Ehsan ul Haq alludes to that changed landscape – of spaces and minds – by reconstructing a similar scene in his work; so while walking around the installation, one feels the familiar presence of methods/materials to ward off expected but unknown assailants.

The open structure of the work suggests a ruined urban site. In addition to bricks, mud, wooden pools, and sacks, a TV set is constantly switched on – apparently referring to the role of this medium, which manipulates and manoeuvres the course of events.

In a way the installation illustrates the current conditions in a society, but at the same instance reminds us that life can be found elsewhere, and transposes it – to the realm of art too.

Life is everywhere, Eshan Ul Haq, Basic Building construction material, earth, bricks, wooden planks, filled sacks, Variable size, 2009.

Life is everywhere, Eshan Ul Haq, Basic Building construction material, earth, bricks, wooden planks, filled sacks, Variable size, 2009.

Slice, Ayesha Zulfiqar Shiekh 
Mix media (materials used for making roads), 60 inches x 60 inches x 60 inches, 2009.                                 

Ayesha Zulfiqar combines an audacious approach to materials with an inventive and sharp vision. She spent her early years in the sheltered environment of a rural village, unaware of what she refers to as the ‘outside world’.

Slice refers to the internal section of a road deliberately stacked layer upon layer with clay, stones, rubble and wood.

The archaeology of the cross-section is imbued with multiple meanings realized through sheer physical strength and effort.

Confronting the outcome is at once disturbing and compelling.

Implode I, Imran Ahmad Khan
Stainless steel surgical hand tools and shotgun cast in aluminum), Variable size, 2007.

Weapons, common and much discussed these days, play a major role in the work of Imran Ahmad Khan. In this installation, parts of a rifle are suspended in front of various surgical instruments.

The objects are related: both penetrate into human flesh, one to kill, the other to cure and revive; both items are handled by human fingers and in most cases draw blood in their course.

Besides these obvious associations, the work conveys an aspect of lyricism through the overlapping of steel tools in varying shapes and sizes.

The scheme of putting two not-so-remarkable products from our surroundings (AK 47 and medical instruments) enriches the formal impact and leads to more than one understanding of the piece. The larger-than-life scale of the work and the shifting views – through combinations of various components invite the viewer and transform him/her from a spectator to a participant (intruder).

‘Historical’ mispronounced sounds like ‘Hysterical’, Mahbub Shah
Found Images, 16 x 12 inches (each), 2001.

Mahbub Shah juxtaposes different official and popular images of the founder of Pakistan, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, to demonstrate the manner in which the whole (mythical person) is more than the sum of his parts.

These pictures could be images of Quaid-e-Azam (As he was revered to in Pakistan) impersonators, to the extent that they resemble each other. In fact, their job is not to represent the man at all, but simply to act as a sign for a figure that is presumed to have lived, died and appeared in a certain way – and these images vary as much as eleven different hand writings might, when writing ‘Jinnah’.

It Shows Things the Other Way Round, Mahbub Shah (left) & The News, Bani Abidi (right)
Charcoal on board, 23.5 inches x 17.5 inches, 2001 (left) & Double channel video, 4' , 24", 2006. 

Mahbub Shah’s reversal of words is an artistic mirror, the board drawn with charcoal, continues a long tradition of engagements with the ‘knowingness’ of the contemporary spectator, who sees things (ideally) from the artist’s point of view. This thread in art history, which Shah engages with repeatedly, stems from the philosophical revolutions of the 19th and early 20th centuries, which consistently attempted to disclose the unconscious aspects of art as well as the human mind, morality or the economy.

Bani Abidi’s work is about the manifest apparatuses of state, not figured as barriers or restrictions on a hypothetical innate freedom, but as models or constructs of everyday lived reality – in other words, as ideology.

She finds this ideology, this elision of state and self, in songs and clothes and official portraiture and news broadcasts.

Security Barriers A - L, Bani Abidi
Digital Prints, 11 inches x 17 inches (each), 2008.

Presented as an alphabetized series of digital drawings, Security Barriers A-L are illustrations of barriers employed on various streets in Karachi.

They range from the quotidian parking-lot barrier with an innovative feature allowing pedestrian or bicycle rider access, to the blue shipping container that has been placed to deter terrorists driving towards the American consulate.

Abidi’s work constructs a mini-archive of the built environment that resonates with the work of Walid Raad, Akram Zaatari and their generation of artists from Beirut, who have sought to activate the productive capacity of archiving – of giving order to things.

Security Barriers A - L, Bani Abidi (left) & Please Do Not Touch, Stay Out and Enjoy the Show, Hamra Abbas (right)
Digital Prints, 11 inches x 17 inches (each), 2008 & Collage and gouache on paper, Variable size, 2004 (right)

Please Do Not Touch, Stay Out and Enjoy the Show mixes miniature style portraits with aesthetically seductive and painstakingly constructed installations from paper collage that have become a recognizable and recurring trope in her practice.

While Please Do Not Touch is not an ephemeral piece, the fragility, scale and detailing of the three paper collage houses adjacent to (and in one instance covering) her self-portraits do force the viewer to adopt a more watchful, acutely observational stance towards the work.

This helps create an intimacy of encounter that mirrors that of studying miniature paintings in albums that could be passed around at court or in gatherings of nobility.

Bread House (Mould), Rabbya Khan
Tin, 17 inches x 18 inches, 2004.

Exploring domesticity, Rabbya Nasser shapes tin to form a conventional image of a house with a pitched roof and rectangular body.This is the standard home that children from around the world draw; however, it is a structure that is found mostly in the United States and Europe.

For the artist, there is an unrelenting threat of discomfort attached to home that is related to traditional gender roles. In particular, she is concerned about the stricture upon women around the world and in Pakistan to be ‘happy homemakers’.

Praying Rug of Necker Cubes, Abdullah Syed
Hand spun wool, 31.5 inches x 53 inches, 2009.

Abdullah M.I. Syed’s Prayer Rug of Necker Cubes appears to be an ordinary item found in many Muslim households. Muslims use these mats as a site for enacting prayers, symbolically submitting to God in the act of prostration.

Although seemingly simple and everyday, the rug designed by Syed is informed by mathematical equations, makes use of computer software, and is embedded in a web of historical and contemporary political concerns.

Unit, Noorali Chagani
Terracotta fired bricks and cement, 9 inches x 4.5 inches x 3 inches, 2009.

The brick forms the foundation of many built structures around the world. Together with a multitude of other units, the brick symbolizes a solid and enduring space. Its might and fortitude sustains entire buildings and the people that occupy them. Noor Ali Chagani captures these qualities represented by a brick to serve as a metaphor for traits that are expected in men in Pakistani society.

Possesion, Noorali Chagani
Terracotta fired bricks and cement, 11 inches x 13.5 inches, 2009.

In Possession, Chagani uses the act of framing to make hundreds of tiny red bricks, and the desire for a newly built home of one’s own they represent, an object to be desired and possessed (like a painting).

The subtle variations in colour of the bricks, and the straight lines they are arranged in, also echo the language of Euro-American minimalism and Op Art, and create different viewing experiences when the work is looked at from different distances.

Mariam, Amber Hammad
Digital Print, 30 inches x 40 inches, 2006.

When the notion of the ‘artist’ emerged in the Renaissance, artistic practices arguably became a means for self-expression. Art became a reflection of its maker. As such, most images and objects made by artists now could be considered ‘self-portraits’.

Amber Hammad makes this presence quite literal in her work by inserting herself in the image. Maryam, the Arabic name for Mary, recreates the seated Virgin and Child genre that has been the subject of countless paintings, prints and sculptures in the West.

Then both of us were born anew, Unum Babar (left), Maryam, Amber Ahmad (right)
Video projection, eggshells, eggcups, 15 inches, 2007 (left) & Digital print, 30 inches x 40 inches, 2008 (right)

The title of Unum Babar's work is drawn from a poem by William Cartwright, the 17th century English metaphysical poet.

Unum’s piece is almost monochrome and the artist is projected as a concentrically wrapped porcelain-like presence within the broken shells.The features of her face provide the only real contrast in this uniform world. Her face is like the germ of life within the living egg.

Order of the universe orchestra II, Mehreen Murtaza
Brass horn, speaker and stereo, 36 inches x 120 inches, 2008.

The intrusion of religious authority in the art world is directly portrayed in this work by Mehreen Murtaza. It is perhaps her penchant for genres like cyberpunk that sharpens her perception of the intertwining of seemingly disparate ideological regimes such as religion and science, and their technologies and chronologies.

The phallic horn piercing the skin of the gallery wall, transmitting apocalyptic sermons, is a vision of the future – made up of the odd spare parts of the past.

Words do not exist, Sajjad Ahmad (left) & Landscape, Ayaz Jokio (right)
Digital C-type print, 80 x 120 inches, 2005 (left) & Gesso, graphite and paper-collage on board / Oil on canvas, 81.5 inches x 110 inches. / 9.5 x 7 inches, 2008 (right).

In his The Words Do Not Exist, Sajjad Ahmed reflects upon the devaluation of ideas, language and images in our times. In a world contaminated with words – by being fed on the media, whether television or newspapers – the importance or meaning of verbal (or visual, for that matter) is diminishing slowly.

Ayaz Jokhio’s works are meditations on the passivity towards the superabundance of imagery that surrounds us and promises us constant flows of information and gratification. He chooses to draw or paint images from the public domain, such as news photographs or encyclopedic pictures.

His fundamental insight is that these images belong to genres, like the great art historical images of the past; not merely because of the strictures of conventional representation, but because generic identification is the only way in which images can compensate for the speed with which they are consumed.

Jokhio slows down the flow of the image across our conscious minds by drawing it, with a technique that is not dissimilar to that of naive street portraitists, and by indicating the impact of the physicality of an image, the specificity of its object-hood.

Landscape & Mother and Child, Ayaz Jokio, Gesso, graphite and paper -collage on board / Oil on canvas, 81.5 inches x 110 inches./ 9.5 x 7 inches (each), 2008.

Mother and Child, Ayaz Jokio, Gesso, graphite and paper-collage on board / Oil on canvas, 81.5 inches x 110 inches./ 9.5 x 7 inches (each), 2008.

Conversation, Aisha Khalid
Double channel video projection, 2002.

A conversation is a dialogue or exchange between two or more people; however, the two individuals in Aisha Khalid’s Conversation piece do not seem to be interested in communicating with each other. In this two-channel video, two hands are busy in opposing activities involving needles and thread.

On the left, a hand belonging to a white-skinned person is engaged in taking apart an embroidered rose. The hand repeatedly plucks at the thread, methodically removing each stitch. The gesture literally and symbolically erases the flower through a destructive feat.

Meanwhile on the right side, a brown-skinned hand (the artist’s) works at constructing the same rose.This hand diligently pulls a needle and thread through the fabric in the act of creation.

Credits: Story

Resemble Reassemble at the Devi Art Foundation was Curated by Rashid Rana.

Assistant Curator: Reha Sodhi, Devi Art Foundation

Text contributions: Salima Hashmi, Rashid Rana, Naazish Ata-Ullah, Hammad Nasar, Quddus Mirza, Naiza H Khan, Atteqa Ali, Adnan Madani, Risham Syed, Razia Sadik, David Alesworth and Ayaz Jokhio.

© Image copyrights of the Artists and the Devi Art Foundation.

Exhibit drafted by: Srinivas Aditya Mopidevi, Kriti Sood, Devi Art Foundation.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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