Since many years, humans have used equine therapy as a method of rehabilitation. But over the years, it has started to pave way for artistic inspiration and artists started to use the imagery of a horse to understand the physicality of the Body; rather to understand the similarity of the human and equine body. What is interesting about Jibran Shahid’s body of work is that he has not only infused the two forms of bodies together to create a hybrid but it also emphasizes upon the importance of depicting horses in art, which the artist has tried to shed light upon in his own artist statement; “For Leonardo, as for other Italian humanists, the horse was considered second only to man as an object worthy of attention.”
Jibran Shahid earned a bachelor’s degree in fine arts with a distinction from the National College of Arts, Rawalpindi. His recent show “Chasing the Equus”, which was curated by Aasim Akhtar, took place on the 9th of October, 2018 at Koel gallery, Karachi. “Chasing the Equus” encompassed Shahid’s relationship with horses since the time he was growing up and the work is a study about his journey exploring both the human and equine form as one, taking inspiration from the Centaur from Greek mythology, Leonardo da Vinci and the sculptor Marino Marini.
Prisoners of Fate is a body of work which was a combination and a series of three different drawings/paintings. The visuals consisted of a work with gray tones while the other two works consisted of hues of sepia; all three of them intricately studying the female body form. The bodies are shown in a crouched position as if they are fetuses, which could be reflecting upon the symbolism of birth and marking these bodies as the source of birth and the tubs could be the womb. What is more eye-catching about the visuals is the detailed study of the ribs and the texture of the flesh which had a lustrous quality to it, possibly because of the application of oil paints.
The Divine Order was another interesting art piece which could possibly be labelled as a continuation of Prisoners of Fate, theoretically. Prisoners of Fate had more focus on the female body and the concept of birth while The Divine Order could be reflective of the transition; entering adulthood (manhood in this particular artwork’s case). But what needs to be noted about this work is that it does not simply depict the transition from birth to adulthood but it is also undergoing a process of transformation; possibly a reflection of the artist himself and his journey to explore the equine form.
The work depicts a nude masculine body transforming into that of a centaur with a heavy muscularity; the muscularity however, seems to be drawing quite an attention with the crispness and the details. Since horses were considered divine in Greek mythology, like the example of Pegasus the divine stallion, this work could possibly be a comment on the artist’s journey as a sacred one since he has been on a quest to understand and explore the Equine form and this has possibly lead to his own transformation into the particular form.
Ecstatic was another piece which was crafted beautifully despite being disproportionate. Consisting of the lower male body, this particular piece was sculpted out of fiber glass, making the visuals look unreal yet pleasant. This sculpted piece has a commonality with that of Michelangelo’s David as they both represent the ultimate forms of divinity; possibly reflecting on the divinity of manhood, through the depiction of the phalluses and the oversized legs.
What is interesting about Shahid’s body of work is the link of all his art works into one subject that is the subject of creation and divinity. It is interesting how the artist has studied the relationship between the horse and the man and has morphed them together to create and depict a heavenly creature, using various mediums, playing with scale and experimenting with proportions. His work has not only depicted his personal journey to find himself but it has also given incentive to other artists to find themselves in their respective art practices.
Jibran Shahid, artist statement displayed in Chasing the Equus’s booklet, Koel Gallery, Karachi, 2018.