Our nation is a melting pot of emotions. Anger, sadness, relief, guilt, love and passion are a few that come to mind. Throughout Pakistan’s journey an
Our nation is a melting pot of emotions. Anger, sadness, relief, guilt, love and passion are a few that come to mind. Throughout Pakistan’s journey and history you will find yourself knee-deep in emotion, and that is exactly what you end up experiencing at Sabah Husain’s wonderful exhibition. Heavily inspired by classical and contemporary poets like Rumi and Noon Meem Rashed, Husain launches into an intellectual exploration of emotions, memories and the drift to transverse alternate realities.
It’s safe to assume Husain is reaching the pinnacle of her twenty-five year long career. After successfully completing her education from the National College of Arts in Lahore she went on to further her curiosity in Kyoto, Japan. There she adopted the Japanese aesthetic, informing her South Asian cultural and artistic modes. In Poetics of Memory she uses this experience to further her narrative in various media that include prints, handmade paper, mixed media, photography and digital media.
In Journey I, Husain uses her unrevealed portfolio to create a paper boat that presents itself to the viewer. The fact that she used her previous artwork demonstrates its intention: to mimic a vessel carrying her thoughts and meaning through a journey of time and space. Husain uses these boats across a series of pieces all entitled Journey up until Journey VI. She hasn’t left any stone unturned with this execution. The natural wear and tear of the paper demonstrates the significant toll time takes on us, and that perhaps is the ultimate message Husain wants the viewer to take from this piece. For instance, in her execution for the piece Journey V we see the paper boat at the bottom of large barrel relentlessly facing off against the confines of its container and the puddle of water in it. The angle of the shot and the reflection of the clear sky in the puddle suggest an almost hopeful tone to a series of pieces that demonstrate the pressure time puts on us all.
I spoke about the inspiration Husain got from poetry and the emotions she explored in Pakistan’s symbolic shores. However, she also embarked upon a second narrative in Iraq, from past till present at the Tigris in Baghdad. Her explorations of other mediums are symbolic as well, just like her paper boats. And she uses them as receptacles of accumulated knowledge that transcends reality to narrate the story. Combining crayons, gold and silver pigment with Sumi and watercolours to incredible effect, Husain’s exhibition continues to leave you in a daze, this time in the form of a series of pieces entitled Folios from the Baghdad Manuscript I-XII.
These pieces are layered with grandiose work, such as in Folios from the Baghdad Manuscript VIII. From the scripture to the pigmentation, Husain has created art that derives from antiquity and transposes it into the future. This is apparent in the arbitrary structure and composition of the pieces. From random placement of numbers and script to splurges and sprays of ink, to the emotion-laden eye there is definite order in chaos with the pieces – as it is apparent in Folios from the Baghdad Manuscript II and XII.
Immersed in Husain’s work especially this particular exhibition, there is a strong feeling of memory throughout her pieces. With the Baghdad Manuscripts you get a strong sense of Husain desperately preserving memory to present it to the viewer so they use it willingly and represent it through their own history. With the Journey series ,memory is allowed to settle, and flow onwards so that what you perceive becomes a part of Sabah Husain’s intellectual migrations.
‘Sabah Husain: Poetics of Memory’ was shown at Koel Gallery, Karachi from 15-24 August, 2015. Images courtesy Koel Gallery.
Osama Khalid graduated from Indus Valley with a Bachelor’s in Design and Falmouth University (UK) with a MA in Creative Advertising, in 2011 and 2014 respectively. He is currently crafting ideas at Lowe Pakistan.
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