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The Dressing Room

A room is nothing but the reflection of the life residing within it. A space assimilates the character of its inhabitant as the present objects are coloured in his/her essence. Similarly one such space was witnessed at the Saatchi Gallery early this month. The booth 13.1 at the START art fair resonates of dressing rooms in many of our houses, were we dress ourselves or perhaps experience some of our most intimate moments. While present in such a space one’s mind could wander to the many tribulations experienced by Man today, revealing that despite being safely cooped up in the privacy of our own homes several misfortunes and calamities still tend to hover over our heads.

 

Seattle – Based Artist, Humaira Abid’s The Dressing Room reveals the thoughts of a person that though protected and away from the turmoil of war and uprising, is still apprehensive about life. Abid’s work was presented in the form of an installation by Khaas Gallery in a solo booth at the fair that took place at the prestigious Saatchi Gallery, London, from the 14th to 18th of September. The wood sculptures, essentially replications of everyday objects, were casually strewn about, reproducing the setting of a dressing room. The curated space helped in promoting the idea of how world affairs catch up to us even in the most intimate settings as thoughts of war, suffering and vulnerability loom in the background even when one is carrying out regular mundane tasks of brushing one’s hair or ironing clothes.
As the viewer stands within the booth they experience the spirit of the absent protagonist. The sculptures are more than just inanimate objects – they resonate of the person that they belong to, impersonating a flux of emotions. Objects such as the naturally placed flip flops or the partially open scissors, suggest certain animation alluding to a human presence that has been there or perhaps that will return to the room. It seems as if the artist is commenting on the impermanence of human beings as opposed to that of material things by the physical absence of the character. It talks about how in today’s troubled times our belongings tend to outlive us.
Abid’s work is made up of multiple layers- the more you explore the more is revealed. The work cannot be categorized as war, affliction, motherhood and impermanence of human life are amongst the few topics she touches upon. Thus, the artist talks about numerous issues – relatable problems that many of us experience every day or are aware of at least at a superficial level. Abid discusses these ideas in the form of a personal narrative, adding authenticity and more power to the message, rendering it more effective than a simple generalization. The artworks are open to interpretation as the red stain on the garments can be interpreted either as violence or even miscarriage. Thus, the viewer is allowed to pick his own meaning, according to their own understanding or experiences.
The artist integrates two different disciplines in her work – Miniature and Sculpture. Abid picks up two labour intensive techniques and implements them so skillfully that it makes one question the arduousness of the task. The large sizes of the sculptures do not cause a hindrance to Abid’s immaculate attention to detail. The artist carves every part of the wooden sculptures with precision down to the wheels of the suitcase that aren’t even clearly visible to the audience. Once the viewer gets past the life like nature of the objects the curiosity about the material used kicks in. One is left in awe of the artist’s ability to replicate any texture or surface in wood.
The sculptures generate conflicting moods. The balloons installed are playful and charming where as they are rivaled by Abid’s blood stained luggage, stirring up disgust and sorrow. Her sculptures embody a feeling of uncertainty, pain, fear or even curiosity. The colour Red that has always been essential in Abid’s practice incites ideas of violence and bloodshed and at the same time that of love or lust.
And I Seeking for Equality in Love placed against the stark white walls of the gallery stood out from the rest. Abid’s ability to transform wood, a hard and rigid surface into the texture of a silk tie and brasserie is worth admiring. Furthermore, Wish I Could Touch the Sky, though out of tune with the rest of the theme, was also quite an alluring sight as it further shows the artist’s capability to transform a stiff material into a fragile and smooth surface vulnerable to a tiny pin.
Abid’s sculptures do not ease the viewer into the idea at hand. Her sculptures are as ominous and disturbing as the topics themselves. The artist does not hold back when it comes to creating violent imagery. The audience though possibly not comfortable with open pronouncements on such matters, cannot help but admire the artist for her bravado. The beauty of the artwork is its ability to emerge as something spectacular and appealing despite its ominous nature. The red stains on the underwear with ants crawling all over won’t be described as a sight worth looking at, but Abid’s My Shame III instantly grips the viewer who is stunned by the life like quality of the garment.
The show gives the viewer an opportunity to experience both 2D and 3D artworks as the artist explores the different ways in which the subject can be discussed. The show reveals how in order to create the eerie feeling one does not have to dim the light or make use of spotlights. To truly stay true to reality one has to convey his/her message in broad daylight, close to natural settings.

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