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Aerial Cartographies

The month of August was welcomed by Natasha Shoro and Sara Khan who exhibited in a two person show ‘Aerial Cartographies’ at Canvas Gallery. One thing that I found incredibly refreshing about the show was that it was absolutely devoid of figurative work, and yet spoke very much about personal, human experiences.


Both artists had designated areas where their work was exhibited. This seemed to be the best decision where this particular exhibition was concerned as Sara Khan’s pieces were small and inviting – her work felt like a narrative that was made powerful when viewed amidst her entire body of work.


On the other hand, Natasha’s large scale pieces were bold and loud and, therefore, needed to be admired from a distance.


Sara Khan views her surroundings from her apartment and observes the beautiful city of Vancouver in colour within the confines of the window, the rest of the work space – pertaining to the walls of the apartment – remaining empty and rendered irrelevant. Coming from a developing country, these empty spaces in her work reflect the homogeneity of interior spaces (perhaps world-over) and the fascination with what the great outdoors yield. There is need to explore, a fascination to discover, and an overwhelming sense of awe and curiosity that is embedded into her work. There is a strong sense of detachment in these particular pieces, drawing a straight disconnect between the outside and inside space that she is enveloped in. The work is small and inviting, urging the viewer to come in and share the view.


Interestingly, her work evolves from ‘views from the window’ into actual landscapes and outdoor spaces. Ironically, the world that once looked ethereal and sublime in hues of orange, pink and blue now incorporates darker palettes that give the environment an almost gloomy and eerie character.


Sara Khan says in her statement that her interests lie in patching various perspectives together to form a holistic impression of a given event or space. This is exactly what comes through from some of her pieces where she employs a mix of a dark palette with hints of bold bright colours – signifying the subjectivity of experience in itself.


What I applaud Sara Khan for the most is experimenting with a number of mediums to create a body of work – something that very few artists can successfully accomplish – debunking the very notion of medium and artistic license/integrity. I personally also enjoyed her paint application in some of the pieces, leaving sections within hard shapes of ‘vantage points’ being obviously unobvious, succumbing to a soft veil of paint.


The contrast between emptiness and activity within small, hard shaped spaces invites the viewer into the work, and encourages her to engage and explore, and therefore experience. Through her work, Sara encourages the viewer to revel in the produce of her as a ‘reporter’ and experience the subjectivity that comes with exploring and retaining the experience; things getting lost in translation or being products of the imagination.


While Sara incorporates hard shapes and humbly sized pieces of work that invite one to come and investigate even closer, Natasha Shoro creates larger-than-life pieces that are bold and striking. Just like Sara, Natasha recalls her travels – but as dreamscapes. Her work is a produce of wonder and excitement. Recovering eagle-eye visuals from her air travels, she remembers how the lands look stitched together with a lace of trees and road, how water absorbs light and gives off hues of green and blue, embellished with white foam.


Textures play a crucial role in Shoro’s visual vocabulary, along with bold strokes and cool/earthy toned palettes with hints of bright orange cascading across some canvasses. Although her paintings were quite captivating, I was drawn towards Shoro’s mixed media work – collages with almost a patchwork like feel – pieces were stitched together reminding the viewer of the top view of a terrain; desert like and structured – nature being consumed by order. In her statement she speaks of the overlapping of journeys that form a cohesive experience – the emotional and the physical – therefore her journeys are not just restricted to the physical realm but mentally and spiritually as well – a road to self-discovery that never ceases and is informed by nature and all that associated with it. The process of painting helps her to represent and project herself onto her canvasses, the layers cocooning or grounding her findings.


She calls her paintings ‘mind maps’, referring to a literal representation of land and sea, as well as metaphorical expression of her own self. The maps that existed in her imagination/memory become real through her canvasses. I find that line of inspiration most intriguing – real spaces that are mentally stitched together to form existing depictions of a ‘dreamscape’.


Although the visual vocabulary of both artists was absolutely diverse, the narratives of imagination and reality as well as the retelling of their journeys and discovery (of self and literal space) is what made them the perfect fit.


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