Marjan and Maryam Baniasadi, respectively, have distinct voices amongst the diasporic linkages that define their cultural positions—a mélange of affi
Marjan and Maryam Baniasadi, respectively, have distinct voices amongst the diasporic linkages that define their cultural positions—a mélange of affiliations rooted in a post-millennial globalised raison d’être, which seeks to curate elements from various ‘homelands’, into a supranormal holism. At Chawkandi Gallery, in Karachi, one was able to witness a rare convergence of their unique sensibilities in the two-person show ‘Dual Genesis’, held from 22nd February until 3rd March of this year—the year for coexisting paradox, or so it seems… Where ballads of displacement are sung on every continent, and war-machines churn out unequivocal brutality, the death-knells of humanity resound alongside creative endeavour in Absurdist mimicry that Camus would likely signal as more proof of mankind’s irrational proclivities. The catch is that resilience and resistance are as ingrained as bloodlust, as both Baniasadis prove in their search for truth in beauty, and beauty in truth.
As inextricably as violence and camaraderie are interwoven in a familiar hegemonic dance, archetypes have represented their ancient narrative through time immemorial. Marjan Baniasadi, of Iranian origin, like her twin Maryam, is able to encapsulate her ‘heritage’ in its imagistic vernacular. In a vast epic stroke, ‘A Hunting Tale’, (Oil on Canvas, 8.6 x 11 Inches, 2021), presents an octet of panels depicting its titular scene of rivalry and imminent conquest, as wild beasts low in challenge to each other on opposite riverbanks, while floral bursts and arboreal groves counter with bucolic serenity. The crux of each work by this artist, however, lies in her technical acumen for rendering the painted surface as a richly textured carpet. Baniasadi is renowned for the transposition of this schema, into an entirely different context. The heritage we speak of is richly diverse and articulates a shift in comprehension of what culture itself is. In technical mimesis of the warp and weft, Baniasadi implicates a contemporaneity onto the Persian rug; a site and artifact of ‘exotic appreciation’ through an Occidentally coloured lens, simultaneously a mobile repository of thousands of years. The Safavid court manufactories of Esfahan during the sixteenth century, and those woven by nomadic tribes, and in villages and town workshops, each distinguished their pile-woven textiles, flat-weaves and intricate embroidery in Kilim, Soumak, Suzani and other manifold modes of the ‘Fars’ Rug Belt. In ‘An Ordinary Day’, a vibrant quadruplet panel (Oil on Canvas, 13.7 x 17.7 Inches each, 2021), Baniasadi has channeled these ancient visual traditions with aplomb: the Paradisiacal Garden descended onto the Earthly plane, in deep jewel hues signifying otherworldly splendour contrasting with muted neutrals of Nature. Perhaps the artist may consider a transition away from the Siren’s call of simulacra towards a new direction, evolving her practice by engaging with current symbology from the socio-political, the anthropological, or the movement to an image-making that further fluently expresses the many lives she has lived in her various homes within Eastern and Western Europe, Pakistan and Iran.
Maryam Baniasadi, having established her roots in Lahore, dwells intentionally on binaries of space and nature, connection and observation, object and subject, within the context of the city, as well a philosophical standpoint. Trained in Miniature Painting at the prestigious National College of Art—as was her sister—Maryam Baniasadi traces parallel realities through depiction of the mundane as signifier of meaningful links between shifting identities. In her ‘The Unfinished House’ (Gouache on Wasli, 8 x 10.5 Inches, 2019), what appears to be a dilapidated bungalow sits uncomfortably squeezed into the picture-plane in full urbane glory. Baniasadi’s skill with architectural rendering is exemplary, outfitting each red brick, chipped flake of paint, and crumbling concrete, with depth and nuance. Her visual lexicon develops literal ‘bricks and mortar’: where the absence of human presence is felt in every piece, there is a conventional restraint and minimalist maturity harkening to traditional Miniature. ‘Pavement and Plants’ (Gouache on Wasli, 5 x 6.5 Inches, 2021), is bolder in contemporary intervention, divided into several horizontal bands of the natural and the artificial. The conceptual pièce-de-resistance within this series, the work depicts literal and figurative borders characteristic of the security apparatus found in many metropoles today, especially in South Asian urban centres where local crime syndicates reign with the favour of corrupt law-enforcement personnel. Baniasadi channels the paranoia of dwelling between routine and danger—the desire for safety and the natural urge to thrive in freedom—through distinctive yellow and black striped pavement, glittering asphalt and red-umber bricks, sharply contrasting with tranquil azure and emerald of sky and foliage. These landscapes of the mind speak of a need to belong, and one looks forward to a more diverse vocabulary within her fast developing signature style.
The Baniasadis speak a universal language, albeit in their own emerging dialects of textile simulacra, and binary metaphor, respectively. ‘Dual Genesis’ effectively displayed their prowess as emerging pan-cultural artists with technical maturity that belies their years. With promising skill, one hopes to see an equally mature conceptual trajectory to propel them to the ranks of cutting-edge leaders in future cultural dialogue; for the stakes have never been higher on the global front.