We begin at roots. Our roots define us, amidst the chaos of globalization, the severity of ‘always-on’ connections, and the carry-on of international baggage. No matter where we go, our roots always help us come back in case we get lost. Stray too far and all you have to do is trace back from where you started. But what happens when you’re born in to a constant uprooting process in your life? To answer this all take a trip to Koel Gallery where it opened its doors to an exhibition entitled Delineate by a globetrotting artist – Aqsa Shakil.
This wonderful exhibition defines life on the road. Shakil states, “Attached to my very bones is my international baggage, most of which is carry-on. I was born in Tanzania, raised in Pakistan, and have had a taste of the Far East, Middle East and Europe. Moving to America has been, let’s just say, a piece of cake; getting used to driving on the wrong side of the road: not so much.” Her experiences across 3 continents breeds work that is individualistic, exotic and yet strangely homely. Perhaps her influence from travel and constantly at odds to realign her roots she’s found comfort in such moments.
About her work Shakil explains that her paintings “have remnants of old photographs of people I have known, grown out of, or run into over the years. They are submerged in memory pockets: vast atmospheric spaces, which result after the paper endures a rain or snowstorm. The random splatters of precipitation have a strange orderly pattern, and I intervene with my orderly splatters that have a strange randomness. The dichotomy of the two makes an exact visual depiction of what I think memory looks like.” Such examples are clear in her paintings especially in one entitled Southwest Airlines. The splurge of watercolor and walnut ink mixed with San Francisco hail on Wasli paper is beautifully layered on a passenger gazing beyond the rectangular windows of an airplane. Similarly in a piece entitled Motia, a deep-set gaze meets the viewer beneath the layers of similar mediums.
The two pieces Polo and Chicco are unique in that Shakil has used snow in place of San Francisco hail (because no other hail is the same as it is in San Francisco), in a mesmerizing combination of graphite and ink on Wasli paper. She revists Walnut ink with the pieces UPS Truck and Crowd. These minimalistic executions narrate a story much larger that first thought and remind us of the untouched brilliance of a new dawn.
By now we’ve got a sound understanding of Shakil’s train of thought, her background and how she approaches her work. Befittingly her 12 pieces executed with graphite on paper reveal a process that is truly endearing. Perhaps it’s the connection they have with the rest of the pieces through its imagery. Nonetheless each work is wonderfully pertinent to the recognition Shakil has received in her so far illustrious career. To name a few awards Shakil has received a Visual & Performing Arts Achievement Award from the Golden Key International Honor Society, the Dennis M. Cratz Dean’s Award during 2005’s Spring Show at UTD, and other awards in juried events. Shakil received her MFA from the Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas.