In recent decades, terror and violence have become an integral and inseparable part of Pakistan. The constant occurrence of extremist and fanatic acts has conditioned the people to become accustomed to the incessant violence and killings that happen all over the country from small villages to the heart of the metropolis of Karachi. This familiarization means that unless the death toll is a startling figure, a few people being killed everyday is anticipated and typical. This harsh reality is the focus of the work of artist, Adeela Suleman.
On 4th may, Fragmented Landscapes, a solo show by Adeela Suleman opened at Gandhara Art Gallery. The fact that we have been inured to the violence and killings that happen on every day basis around us is the concentration of Suleman’s work as she skillfully plays with a contrast of beauty and violence. The violence that our city has been engrossed in is intriguing and fascinating for the artist as she almost finds a nonconforming beauty accompanying it.
Adeela Suleman has worked with found ceramic plates for this show, intricately painting the plates with imagery that juxtaposes beauty and pain making the violence seem virtually exotic. She has taken her imagery from the post cards of Pakistan which glorify the magnificence of the northern mountains and portraying its landscape to look like a glimpse of heaven. On a closer look there is some element of violence in the composition that is overshadowed by the scenic beauty of the imagery but visible on observation. On one of the plates there are two headless men killing each other highlighting the idea that no one knows who killed who. The deaths and the killers are almost always unidentified with little done to uncover their anonymity. The use of landscape also hints on the idea that the violence has become so common that it feels like an inherent part of our system.
Plates are an attractive use of material but it is not arbitrary, Suleman has a carefully throughout explanation for it. She thinks food, violence and sex bring a similar kind of pleasure. When meat is given to you raw it is unappealing but when it is cooked and beautifully presented on a plate, you derive an immense pleasure from it. She believes violence to have a similar grounding. Violence is beautified and presented to us in a way that we become conditioned to it and accept it. The grotesque in her work becomes overshadowed by the craftsmanship and finesse of each piece. The skillfully made pieces engage the viewer to focus on the beauty making death look beautiful too. Her execution of the work coincide with the idea of how violence has almost become pleasurable and beautiful making it attractive.
The butcher knives exquisitely painted, camouflage the violent element of the object. The landscapes painted on the knives hide the violent purpose for which the object is used making the actual object obscure. The idea of violence engrossed with beauty is reinforced in this work.
The deceiving images of beauty and death are the result of the skill with which each piece is executed. Although the artist works with a grotesque concept, her emphasis on skill and detail allows her to create striking pieces of art that mesmerize the viewer by their attraction making the violence also look beautiful.
‘Fragmented Reality’ by Adeela Suleman was shown at Gandhara-art Space from May 4th, 2017 till the end of June.