“Don’t talk about your art; let the art speak for you”: a statement repeatedly verbalized in art school, drummed into the head of each pupil. Despite not having any formal training as an artist Sophie, has seemed to grasp this concept perfectly. Her images do not need by lines or explanations – they speak plenty.
The show ‘I Am’ by Sophie Mahmud opened at My Art World in Islamabad on Monday the 27th. Sophie has single-handedly proved that despite attaining a degree in a completely different field, such as marketing, you can still put many a professional photographers to shame if you have her level of talent. Her photography is a pleasant change from the never ending snaps of mountain tops and afflicted individuals on street corners.
She has aesthetically exposed the malicious side of our society. Her work is a comment on a narrow-minded society where “all you are seen as is a woman”. The artist talks about belonging to a family of six daughters in a community where sons are preferred. Furthermore, life as a single mother has proved to be a great inspiration that is reflected in this series.
Mahmud has beautifully captured the essence of what it is to be a woman in a male-centric society. One would think, ‘what a clichéd topic’, but this thought is immediately dismissed when exposed to the artist’s unique approach. The work possesses an autobiographical nature unfolding all the aspects of her everyday life.
When asked to describe the collection, her humble and slightly anxious style of speaking made me feel as if she wasn’t entirely aware of all that she had achieved. Similarly, the artwork seems to assume a sort of taciturn aura –simply stating the facts, not complaining or crying out about the hardships faced by women, merely acting as a monologue.
The compositions are pure and simple, with no extra embellishments or fancy imagery, which is half the charm. The photographs consist of daily used items or familiar scenes making them easier to connect with. They might not exactly reveal what the artist intended it to but does make one ponder over what the images represent. A hammer is no longer just a tool; it is a metaphor for something much larger. Thus, these rather ordinary visuals extracted from our everyday lives are used to weave complex narratives.
The work possesses a silent stillness, a sense of impending doom. The subtle violence slowly creeps onto the viewer. It’s like that moment in a horror film were the protagonist walks through a dark hallway towards a strange noise emerging from a room at the end of the corridor; that instant when she puts her hand on the door knob, slowing pushing the door open to reveal something horrific and gruesome within.
A gradual yet noticeable transformation is seen in the colour and composition of the pieces, which document the successive changes in the life of the artist. The initial shots produced exhibit a darker hue, automatically setting the mood that the artist meant to accomplish. However, the evolution from the use of a darker palette to brightly lit frames display a level of confidence gradually achieved with the subject. It shows a bolder approach. The artist seems to have now ventured out of her shell completely, instead of hiding behind the dimly lit confines of her former photography.
This labour of love proves to be enigmatic, slightly menacing and has the power to give birth to many a heated discussion.
‘I Am: Self-Portraits’ by Soofia Says was shown at My Art World, Islamabad, from 27-31 July. Images courtesy My Art World.