The aptly titled show Personal Mythologies was inaugurated on January 10th, 2017 at My Art World, Islamabad displaying the works of two US based artists, Mina Mohsin and Rajab Ali Sayed. Both the artists use their canvases to portray different aspects of society; adumbrating what they feel is more familiar and relevant in their own lives. Mohsin tends to ponder over the aspirations of other individuals while Rajab captures moments in time to create a chronicle of his own life.
Mina Mohsin’s artworks include elaborate paintings depicting domestic items fused with bold patterns. The artist adopts an implicit way of outlining certain characters in our society, using ubiquitous household items. By associating human characteristics to objects the artist share’s her outlook on the flaws in the society, more specifically materialism and bourgeois concerns.
Mohsin highlights the superficial relationship between Man and his belongings, mocking the social convention of defining yourself by your possessions. The omnipresence of these items make the artist’s work relevant to a large audience. The viewer tends to relate to objects they have probably never come across as they reside in the artist’s family home. Furthermore, the paintings also make one question their dependency on material belongings.
The artist’s excessive use of mismatched and gaudy patterns gives the work a particularly unsettling quality, thus ingeniously painting a picture of individual’s that tend to be ostentatious. The iridescent colour palette leaves no room to breathe on the surface, indicative of a space that is not livable because of its overwhelming and spurious nature. Through these tricks and techniques Mohsin is successful in making us agree with her viewpoint. Thus, we tend to view such grandiosity with the same disdain as does the artist. Furthermore, with Just put a flower pot on it she hints at ideas of hiding an austere reality with the use of embellishments, perhaps alluding to individuals that hide their unappealing character by making superficial efforts to conceal their foibles.
The titles are the main draw towards Mohsin’s works. The terse yet powerful phrases open up a whole narrative. Through a simple statement she reveals a place, setting and mindset. The titles resonate with many individuals as they are derived from everyday vernacular that is particularly endemic of our society. It is interesting to see how an artist currently based in Brooklyn still creates work that is very much connected to her homeland, Pakistan – the speech and phrases, the inherited furniture and the primary concerns of everyday.
Mohsin’s The maid must’ve taken it served as the crux of her collection. The mismatched light bulbs illlustrated add authenticity to the otherwise fantastical setting. This painting adopts a more stern comment on the arrogance and presumptuousness of individuals compared to her other facetious or ironic statements. She accurately describes the unnecessary denigration of those less fortunate, referring to the nonchalance with which people make serious accusation to those they consider to be beneath them.
While Mohsin has deduced a clear understanding of her surroundings, Sayed still seems to be exploring. The open ended nature of Sayed’s work makes ordinary settings and everyday visuals, mysterious and alluring.
The audience is left with a set of events from the artist’s life and rather than an idea being imposed on them, they get to take away whatever they want from the images. This helps the artist successfully exchange his audience with unfamiliar settings.
The artist is successful in preserving ephemeral moments. The omission of elaborate details and exact colour tones gives the work its dream like quality. The use of flat colour further promotes to the intangible nature of the artist’s reminiscences.
Sayed has made an acute decision of doing away with posed and stiff compositions. The organic compositions, exhibit the same spontaneity of informal photography for example The number and the place seems like a snap taken sitting in a restaurant while waiting for food or The Night Before seems like an inadvertently captured photograph. The audience is given the impression that the artist is in a haste to capture the moment but then slowly relives it through his canvas so they get emblazed in his memory. The artlessly captured scenes make the work more real. The people that seem to be emerging from the edge of the frame of Paradise Road and the casual countenance of his friends in Let’s be honest make the artist’s life more palpable to the viewers.
Sex on the beach (0de to Jasper Johns) proved to be the most alluring artwork from the collection. The painting’s strength is its simplicity. The artist divests his image of all extraneous details and narrates a story with the use of two beer cans. The setting though lacking the physical presence of the human body is still impregnated with strong human emotions that reside within the spectacular bright blue sky.
The collection tells us what the artist deemed important enough to select from a possibly big pile of snapshots. This helps the audience uncover what personality hidden behind the images. The individual canvases though revealing different moments in time can yet be woven into one cohesive narrative- the narrative of the protagonist.
Thus, Mohsin’s and Sayed’s approach , though dissimilar tends to talk about how they perceive the society. They in their own ways highlight the nuances of life and the environment that they are a part of.