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The Imaginarium

 

The unsuspecting entrance of Rohtas 2 was transformed into a looking glass through which one slips into an alternate world of fantasy and the beautifully bizarre crafted by the artist, Affan Baghpati. Baghpati graduated with a Bachelors in Fine Arts from Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture, Karachi in 2015 and has completed his Masters in Art and Design at SVAD, Beaconhouse National University, Lahore in 2017. A modern day alchemist, Bhagpati is showcasing 14 transmuted artifacts conjured by combining brass, vinyl, fiber glass, copper, tin, fabric, aluminum and paper collage. Three of these works are oils and acrylic on print on board, copper sheet and print on paper.

 

The experimental exploration blurs the boundaries of natural and unnatural, the living and the inanimate, a metamorphosis is taking place within Baghpati’s practice. Developing a unique sub-genre of sculpture over the years where he frequently engages in a quest for collecting found objects while he maintains an odd sensibility for the taxidermy of small animals. For him, a collection of brass and copper spoons, taxidermy horns, goat and parrot heads, vintage antiques and flea market curiosities enable him to direct a plethora of animated characters for his studio cabinets. His works have an all-encompassing visual vocabulary that capture regional, colonial and ritualistic identities. This anachronism arises from Baghpati’s welding of the old and new, real and unreal, it is further highlighted in the show’s introduction “made, bought, used, consumed, given away, collected, sold and bought again…”

 

Puppetry as an art can be traced back 3000 years, its origins are found in ancient cultures. The earliest puppets were of ivory and clay and have been discovered in Egyptian tombs. Medieval Italy saw the practice of marionettes as an integral part of theatrical production design, Commedia dell’arte used puppeteering representation to evade church ordered censorship. Similarly, Baghpati incorporates these animated reformations of provocative frivolity with the precision of a surgeon and the deftness of an archeologist. He journeys into each objects origin and history retracing their existence and recontexualising them into new narratives. Breaking off from traditional sensibilities and aesthetics, Bhagpati deliberately taunts those viewers who would find profanity and obscenity while viewing the phallic altercations of “Candy Man” and “Trapped in a Vessel”, he further highlights these objects by dipping them, respectfully in pink and red paint. Other objects like “Golden Cow” and “Golden Bullock” which is a recognizable Surma Dani are gilded animalistic and phallic. In the same spirit of pioneering works of found object art, Bhagpati challenges his viewers with the important question of “What is Art?”, “Is this Art?” and “Is this handmade or a found object?”. The use of both colonial and eastern toilets together in the work “Sit up sit down” presents a self-reflective portrait of our understanding of Art. Is this work neo-modernistic-found-object-art, or is it theatrical, could it be model making or is it simply satirical in exposing our own preconceived rigid ideals of Pakistani Art.

 

The gallery space is imbued by the caravan like presence of these works, a pictorial conversation is in place. The curated sense of direction is composed through placing objects together, at a distance, on different eye levels and even in the center of the gallery space. Drawing interesting parallels between Baghpati’s style and technique, on one hand there are golden horns on a lotta creating a psychological flux seen in “As I wonder I Pray” on the other hand “Blue Baby” feels crass and petulant, along with these bizarre and unapologetic objects is a nostalgic sculpture made from copper and brass of a miniature tricycle titled “On Three Wheels”. A corridor of different rooms, we transition from each object on to the next constantly creating interconnections and cross references. These curated dream like tableaus are 3 dimensional story boards decoding the psychological state of the artist or perhaps mapping out his journey of self-discovery through this process of art making.

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