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Altering The Known

Whether it be in music, writing or sculpting, artists always find themselves questioning the limits and norms of their interested field. In an attempt to alter definitions and constraints, artists such as Amna Ilyas focus their creative energy into blurring the black and white aspects of our world. In her recent showcase of works at the Canvas Gallery, she takes a plunge into a philosophical debate over the existence of objects and the dynamics of visibility.
It is interesting to note that even after a few glimpses of the exhibition the viewer can articulate the similarity in the aesthetics of the artworks to Amna Ilyas’s written statement. It would be slightly superficial to state that the artist has an ‘inquisitive’ nature to discuss the ontological aspect of objects; these contemporary sculptures communicate some very straightforward dilemmas of the creative mind, yet the depiction of these thoughts are original and invite the viewer for a closer inspection. Throughout the exhibit, Amna Ilyas has played with the effects of reading and introspective observation; books, crumpled pages, blackboard, and mirrors emphasize the aspect of deriving multiple meanings or looking beyond the surface-as when one is reading we tend to look and visualize beyond the words.

Using a clean and basic colour scheme, the eye is allowed to take in the unusual forms accumulated together in the sculptures. The strangeness in the art pieces is deliberately carried through the exhibition because the artist is interested in dialect and visual language which cannot be understood so easily. Pieces such as Page One take on a twisted and unrestrained form while the stark white and thickness of the Perspex transform the ‘page’ into a sophisticated gallery item. Many of these pieces draw inspiration from objects we are familiar with; for instance a stencil sheet of neatly cut out alphabets, a familiar thick novel, scribbles on chalkboards and crumpled pieces of A4 paper. Using Perspex and acrylic Amna Ilyas amplifies the ‘plastic’ aspect of words and perhaps authority even. These images coincide with childhood and the learning/schooling aspect of our lives and the artist has done a remarkable job in taking these images and giving them a more mature understanding or questioning. ‘We are Black’ creates this miniature jungle of black letters fumbled together like a jigsaw puzzle and the viewers can take away how the artist means to deconstruct the known and the singular and unquestionable perspective.

In her own words, Amna Ilyas states that “As a sculptor I had experimented a lot with materials and their respective qualities to carry a meaning in their form without deliberate effort- I have always been inclined towards material that exuded sensitivity and fragility.” This delicacy is very well conveyed in particular pieces such as I am You and This is an Image-combining shadows and thin linear lines-prove how art can be a simple yet powerful reflection of one’s surroundings by using the apt materials.
Any viewer, artistically read or not can appreciate how Amna Ilyas’ take on conceptual art is simple but evocative and multidimensional. The transparent pages and the hollow books resemble x-ray images, moreover a nostalgic ghostly experience. While the artworks glimmer in their pristine material there is an undeniable sense of emptiness and unresolved issues which is encapsulated thoughtfully in the mirror frame pieces. Upon explaining her interest in art as boundry-less language Amna Ilyas commented on how there is no formal and defined way to interpret art as the “emotional and imaginative intuition” of one’s individuality have to come take part. This is very applicable for the collection as mirrors, books and papers are all objects we participate with on a daily basis yet each person has a different association or memory attached to these objects.
Echoing the need to vanquish the conformist approach to art, Amna Ilyas’s collection emerges through images of familiarity yet the analytical and fresh depictions speak to the viewer about how there might be no strict restrictions to any field or definitions in our world. Although the work carries this chemistry lab and medicinal look due to the materials’ gloss and minimalism, holistically the persona of this exhibition aims to disagree with the ‘severe’ aspects and outlooks on art. The artist and her art works do not really feel the need to spiral into endless philosophizing about existential crises even though the subject matter is quite complex to the layman. This collection unapologetically explores the endless possibilities and facets of all that is known in our habitual occurrences.
Veera Rustomji is a Fine Art student at the Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture. She has been a freelance writer for the past two years and enjoys conducting research within the field of art.

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