The exhibition ‘In Plain Sight’ opened on last week at Satrang Art Gallery, consisting of a beautiful collection by four talented individuals: Sidra Asim, Zahra Asim, Zoha Khan and Sanie Shoaib Bukhari.
The display consisted solely of small-scale paintings that conclude that one does not need necessarily have to make big art pieces to grab attention as even small pieces can do the trick. This show reveals an artist’s ability to take seemingly mundane or ordinary items and turn them into pieces of art. It reveals the ingenuity of the artists and the power of their paintbrush as they put forward their different take on what would be called still life paintings.
The work finally gives due credit to the ordinary items that make up our surroundings and serve us well; aiding us in all our undertakings .Each artist adorns these objects with traits according to their own respective ideas, giving them almost human-like qualities. The objects assume personalities, some menacing, a few aloof and others comforting.
Zahra Asim’s images consist of cluttered items, run-down interiors and haphazard arrangements. However, the paintings do not exude panic or a sense of claustrophobia but rather assume a serene quality, as they simply document the spaces that the artist revisits in their memory. Being the former setting of Asim’s life, the messy environments are not just chaotic backdrops; they are active participants in the growth of the artist. There is a harmony in the clutter, a drama; a movement. Amidst the disorder the artist finds comfort; a familiarity.
Asim does not hold back from displaying her painterly prowess; assuming the status of an artist that can make old cartons and crackled paint on the walls look good. One could dislike the imagery but they cannot deny the skill the artist possesses. Her images cannot be instantly labeled as “photorealistic”. They comprise all of the delicacies of a painting; the drama which makes it more than just a photograph, but yet seem so close to reality. The size of the artwork complements the photo-like quality fulfilling the artist’s intention to make it look like parts of a scrapbook. The intricacy of the images is breath-taking. One can almost feel the textures, the need to smooth out the wrinkles in the sheets for the more neurotic ones among us or the desire to move the articles around to make more room to breathe. The setting seems unfit to live in but in a very strange way seems to be like a home for the artist.
Sidra Asim has taken a slightly different take on the subject. She illustrates human figures alongside the objects for a more direct portrayal of the connection they share. She combines images of two completely different nature and skillfully blends them together. What caught my attention after looking at the images was the scale of the figures in comparison to the objects. Her imagery the characters play second fiddle to the dominating utensils, perhaps reflecting upon the role reversal between both entities. She has also tried to capture the fleeting expressions that capture the essence of the characters, or the things that spark her interest. Instead of just capturing settings she captures experiences or candid moments.
Sanie Bokhari took up the daring task of painting on organza, which instantly raised the question about how she actually managed to paint over the thin fabric.
Her piece Anesthetize appealed to me the most .The viewer is instantly sucked in by the mesh of curvy lines. The eye keeps moving along the lines that play with a person’s vision, keeping them occupied for a while till a loud sound in the background pulls them back to earth. Bokhari’s use of multiple media surely keeps things interesting, with each piece created with a different technique and surface, showing the sign of an artist that has clarity in her thought process and isn’t scared to move out of her comfort zone. The use of layers and dim lighting creates an almost dream-like space out of ordinary everyday scenes. Bokhari successfully zooms into the intimate details of an individual’s daily routine, deconstructing it piece by piece.
Zoha Khan’s images took me a while to figure out, as she converts something that is seemingly so ordinary into something unrecognizable. The artist discusses our dependency on technology and how important these non-living substances have become to us. Unlike Zahra Asim’s recollections, these images have more of a sinister feel where the items possess an ominous air. They seem to have an almost commanding stature or overpowering presence, despite the considerably small scale of the work. The aggressive and rugged treatment in the images reveal Khan’s feeling of vulnerability as human worth reduces in relation to that of inanimate matter.
Each artist presents her meticulous observation of the modern world, teaching us a little about her particular way of seeing and painting a picture of her eccentric view of the world.
‘In Plain Sight’ at Satrang Art Gallery, Islamabad, opened on 27 August 2015. Images courtesy Satrang Gallery.
Shameen Arshad is a graduate of the National College of Arts, Lahore. She is an artist, curator as well as a freelance writer for ArtNow and The Missing Slate.