Lumieres – Expressing the Interplay of Light and Identity


Lumieres – Expressing the Interplay of Light and Identity

The French embassy in Islamabad added the much needed buzz to the art scene after a hiatus caused due to the pandemic with ‘Lumieres’ -a group show o

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The French embassy in Islamabad added the much needed buzz to the art scene after a hiatus caused due to the pandemic with ‘Lumieres’ -a group show of six female artists from Pakistan, France, and Morocco. The art exhibition titled ‘Lumieres’ was set up in one of the galleries at the Pakistan National Council of the Arts (PNCA) and was well received by art aficionados of the twin cities who welcomed the much needed reprise while adhering to the COVID SOPs.

The multi-disciplinary, multi-media, and multi-dimensional show featured paintings, photographs, drawings, installations and other art expressions of Christine Ferrer, Farida Batool, Genevieve Gleize, Marium Agha, Risham Syed and Safaa Erruas. It was in fact this very experimental take on the subjects and mediums that indeed made Lumieres a rare experience to witness light’s interplay with the subjects of these talented artist’s choosing and the statements they wanted to make through their art.

It was interesting to watch Marium Agha’s intricate and luxurious art work done in stitch work amalgamating human busts with animal heads – a rare glimpse into how humans can hide their beastly instincts behind a show of opulence.  Working in the medium of tapestries, drawings and installations, Agha creates artworks that are a physical manifestation of our globalized sensibilities, deconstructing prevalent ideologies to write a new narrative.

‘Light Bodies’ by Christine Ferrer, a French fashion model turned artist is part of her work on body. The installation of iridescent silhouettes sprawled on the floor are headless and representing the mindless bodies remaining as corpses. Arranged as a round, these corpses are bounded to each other, in a lively posture, joyful, dancingly – signifying how life continues to thrive in a circle of continuity without much intellectual inquiry.

The white panels of Safaa Erruas, the Moroccan artist, who has graduated from the Institute of Fine Arts in Tetouan, titled ‘Parallel Paths’ depict her thoughts of ‘absence, immateriality, transparency, and fragility’.  The white of her work is a deliberate constraint on part of the artist and despite the nimbleness and the cold impact of her choice of palette and the materials such as needles, razors, gauzes, metallic thread, cotton and paper, her monochromatic canvases, titled as ‘Parallel Paths’, cast an effect much stronger than one would expect.

The photographs put on display by Genevieve Gleize, show ‘things behind things’. In her statement Gleize explains, ‘I wish that my photography contributes to animate the seized moments in their paradoxical immobility, faithful at the same time to their portion of second and to the parts of real and imaginary stories which it conveys.’ Her photos on display, despite their dominant presence, conveyed a feeling of abandonment and destitute.

Farida Batool explores Pakistan’s political upheavals and tumultuous history through her work. She also used virtual reality (VR) to transport the viewer inside another space that was a mixture of visuals. Her body of work on display was a combination of diverse media, referencing a dialectical meeting of visuals in a city full of lights and darkness; suffocation and magic; and, sensuousness and claustrophobia. Her images of the moments of shadows falling on the ground, reminding one of a solitary stroll in a street with possibly the shadows cast by a dim sickly lamp-post, juxtaposed with Faiz Ahmed Faiz’s poetic references to the Dasht-e-Tanhai (the Dessert of Loneliness) are part of everyone’s subconscious experiences.  

Risham Syed displayed her compositions of ordinary everyday objects to create corners and tell stories through her work. “These for me are symbols, symbolic of the present times. I turn these symbols into paintings, which is a deliberate act of participation. I juxtapose objects that are reminiscent of a certain time in history. Past provides a context for viewing the present. Curious objects, symbols of class, power, taste, knowledge and advancement in an ordinary arrangement mimic the museum curio cabinets creating historic fictional narratives,” according to Syed.

Lumieres was curated jointly by Zara Sajid, a specialist in the contemporary art sector with experience of more than 8 years of curating exhibitions, having done projects in Berlin, London, Dubai, India and Pakistan; and Stephanie Borsa, a French contemporary art gallery owner and founder of So Arty, an agency that works with private and public institutions for cultural projects. Supported by the French Embassy in Pakistan and PNCA, the project was conceptualized over a year ago amid various lockdowns due to the Covid-19 pandemic for which the curator duo Zara Sajid and Stephanie Borsa are really commendable.

The curatorial note for Lumieres titled, ‘Reflection’ has been written by Odile Guichard, Curator, Musee Vouland, Avignon, France. “Energy source of life, light evokes the visible and the intelligible, the sun, cosmology, fire, lighting, brightness, day and night, contrast, a vast imaginary background’, she wrote. The second part of the project is an exhibition in France in 2023 featuring the same artists. Ghazala Saifi, Parliamentary Secretary (National Heritage & Culture Division) attended and spoke at the opening of the event which was also attended by a large number of artists, art enthusiasts, diplomats, and art journalists.