The transient beings in Wardha Shabbir’s work are engulfed in a thick wall of thriving foliage. These celestial bodies have industrial patterns, mechanical symmetry and infrastructure that feels familiar, interrupted by Shabbir’s gentle nurturing and compassionate ivy that glides, collects and spreads across her series on bright solid colored backgrounds of blue, orange, red, green and an iconic yellow. “Green Matter’ opened on 13th July 2021 and is a solo presentation of Shabbir’s installation works hosted at Canvas Gallery.
The precision with which Shabbir drafts her technicolor habitats instantly triggers the imagination of the viewer. The first painting we encounter when entering the space of the gallery is “Flecked with Stars” which showcases the exciting biodiversity of otherworldly trees romantically set against a deep inviting night sky. Shabbir introduces her world as her very own Planet Pandora (Avatar) using her incredible command over miniature painting that draws in the viewer to her biophilic designs. Biophilia is an intrinsic human instinct to create associations with nature that are psychological, spiritual and metaphysical. But in this otherworldy scape, the laws of gravity are ominous and what at first impression feels soothing transforms into a sinister and threatening scene. In the painting “The In-Between” four structures feel alive against the gust of wind suggested by the formation of leaves surrounding the folded walls. Abandoned remains of a forgotten civilization, Shabbir creates a series of post-apocalyptic paintings housing fragmented and unfinished architecture and labyrinths. The bright background is smooth and plays with our idea of digital and tactile, past and future, distorting our sense of spatial depth. The viewer is unable to identify the landscape as Shabbir creates these images with scientific and anthropological excavation revealing futuristic or ancient ruins. There is a distillation of form that has been evolving, she plays with perspective, colour frequency and vibrancy as seen in “RGB”. The eyes are constantly traveling through the muted flat red plane as the human-like presence of the two large objects seems to be in the conversation. The viewer is unable to decipher if the walls are colliding, growing, or breaking apart.
The lush green ecology is a recurring motive in Shabbir’s paintings, her foliage remains flawlessly intact in “A River Land” even though a cube of piercing cadmium yellow lines sear through the grass. These pair of seemingly tectonic plates are gliding along a conveyer belt through space. With each industrially reinforced island, there is a patch of soft mossy grass peacefully swaying. There are other blue paintings in the series that carries a constellation of light rising through the foliage. As seen in “The First Light” we as the viewer become as small as an organism placed deliberately at ground level looking up into an infinite expanse of the night sky. Shabbir launches an arrow of light into the dark with creates schools of tiny life forms flying through the air, trigger a childhood memory of watching fireflies in the evening breeze. The painting “Like A River” places the viewer in a standing position looking down at a stream of grass neatly flowing in a singular line surrounded by a hum of the same fireflies, the air feels thick and humid triggering yet another synesthetic experience. Shabbir engineers intricate miniature models like the one in “A Grass Meadow” strategically placing a crossword of tufts purposely leaving some a welting yellow disrupting the illusion of fantasy with the realism of decay.
Her visceral and mysterious body of work is created with laborious perfection, the framing is deliberate yet seamlessly joins the painting. Shabbir is a master at creating monumental bands of woven embroidery, rich textile and weathered threading that appears heirloom and aged. “I Have Seen an Ocean” could be a missing piece to a treasure island, an illusion so sophisticated placed on a bright cadmium yellow background almost preserving it. Shabbir revisits her stunning yellow background in “Growing In Silence” where the visual coding comes full circle combining various elements to create a specimen for the viewer’s close study.
Among the hues of Shabbir’s choosing is the serene green colour that can be seen framing the four-piece installation “The Parent Garden” hanging together and joined like bookbinding on the corner of the room. These unconventional installation formations are a part of Shabbir’s intimate exploration of space, she is in a dialogue with her environment inside and outside her paintings. Leaving behind her zoomed-in and detailed flora and fauna the diptych “A Study Land – 1 & 2” shows her objects furthest away in distance from the viewer inviting them to use their familiarity and add their own learned detailing of her various plant species into the work. The video installation is a similar meditative study asking the viewer to join the artist on her deep dive on observing the movement, textures and colours of a large green expanse. The experience becomes therapeutic and immersive as the visuals in the video become the entire environment surrounding the room is a blanket of simulation. Shabbir is aware of her role as an artist and creates a visually recreational playground for the viewer to climb, ascend, descend and eventually submerge within the nature found in her paintings. The fluidity, calmness and gentility of her pieces can feel healing, enchanting, and hypnotic as the colours are modern and urban yet overcome with an amazonian arrangement of wild nature. The artist manipulates space and time in her paintings by capturing the viewer’s curiosity. The forms and colours are set in the space so that they keep reflecting each other’s similarities and differences merging into one visual experience. The gallery walls start to feel similar to the miniature folds drafted in Shabbir’s paintings. As the eyes keep following the stream of flowers, trees and leaves there is a strong sense of unity and current of direction that energizes the senses. We find ourselves bonded to Shabbir and her process of creating these pieces. They are purposely kept open to interpretation allowing the viewer to walk into the space transforming them into a participant.