24. untitled 7.5_ x 7.5_ Acrylic on Wasli Dynamic Featured Image

Closer than you think…

 

Have you ever tried to educe a memory? Is it absolutely accurate, beginning to end? Well, according to research published in the Journal of Neuroscience, the actual act of rethinking a particular memory in fact distorts it from the actual and in the end you are left with a nothing but a made up truth.

 

While walking through Sanat’s recent display, memory and emotion were the main themes that bounced off the four walls. Rabia Ajaz’s show ‘Close Encounters’ displayed around 30 pieces with the biggest canvas at 56cm and the smallest at 5cm. It was hard to understand where the work began and ended; whether there was link or these tiny paintings were just bits of a jumbled oeuvre. However, standing closer than usual to an artwork because of the size, created an intimacy with the artwork…

 

Suddenly I remembered my switchboard back home, hoping I hadn’t left a light on….

 

I saw the wires hanging out at our community’s parish hall before it was renovated…

 

I remembered the fear I felt as I secretly peeled of the wall paint in grade school…

 

I saw the sky as if looking up through the Nuswanjee courtyard and how the bird passed across the cloudless blue scene as we anxiously awaited our thesis results… 

 

I flash backed to my grandmother cooking… the happiness I felt watching her…

 

Like a waterfall, memories gushed forth each time I stood in front of a work and each time it was different. The work spoke with a generalisation that was both elegant and somehow specific to the individual.

 

But was I reliving my own past or fabricating it to suit the visual?

 

The artist picked up portions of all aspects of her surrounding, from the mechanical to organic, dim to vibrant. It was as if everything and anything was collected and placed for the viewer to see. But oh not the whole thing… bits and fragments, some so zoomed in that the painting is nothing but shape and colour and this allowed them to be felt by more than one person.

 

I remember seeing pigeons on the telephone pole… don’t I?

 

Well standing in front of the untitled piece I now felt like I had.

 

There was something so peaceful about walking into a space where only 5 by 5 cm sections of wall were covered. The paintings did not scream at you, demanding to be seen but rather quietly lay there, waiting for you to come close enough to imagine what story that sectioned image came from. Ajaz’s miniscule pieces reminded one of how we view images today, that is, typically on phone screens. We are so used to looking down, scrolling through the 2 by 2 inch squares that Instagram and Facebook force you to crop from original pictures. Now, looking at a place, or scene, or even at somebody else has become almost hassle-free. Ejaz’s work, perhaps not intentionally, reminds the viewer of how diverse and yet somehow restricted technology has made us.

 

Each piece, though diverse in imagery, had a haunting human presence. Even without the presence of the body, one could feel them around, be it through naked wires or cut up meat. In a way, these images give us a sense of the artist, what interests her, what she has witnessed. If nothing else, the exhibition is a portrayal of the artist’s keen eye, her attention to the redundant and her ability to produce evocative recreations.

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