Wayfares of the last night

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Wayfares of the last night

A two-person show by Masooma Syed and Farida Batool held at the Canvas Gallery questioned the position ofaesthetics in a rough and stressful world

Nature’s Contrast
Exploring Art, Design, and Mark-Making
Corporeal to Ethereal

A two-person show by Masooma Syed and Farida Batool held at the Canvas Gallery questioned the position of
aesthetics in a rough and stressful world

The exhibition titled ‘Wayfarers of The Last Night’ was intentionally centered on
meditations of the color red, and this choice presented multiple dimensions, since red has a
variety of meanings and associations in Subcontinental and Far-Eastern cultures. At the same
time that it is employed to signify danger, it is also an auspicious color, and we are plentifully
supplied with examples of purpose, sense and reason for its extensive deployment in different

It is notable that both artists are seasoned travelers and have long-spanning artistic
practices; both Batool and Syed have further associations with the realities of life, as is evident
in the formers’ social activism – therefore, the expectations with which the viewer might
approach the works can range from standardized perspectives, to being open to new ideas or
methods. As such, Batool and Syed are innovative and pioneering in many ways, and this was
apparent in the sizeable scope of materials and means: the exhibition was composed of
painterly work, lighting and wood assemblages, pages torn from books, and photo-prints on
glass, amongst other things.

Speaking directly to the artists, though, straightaway revealed the actual foundation of
the exhibition, connecting us to their intrinsic humane concerns. Here, with both artists, the
problem of existential absurdity and erasure shifted in a positive way, from language, to artistic
production, even though the title was confessedly twice-borrowed from literature – firstly from
Faiz Ahmed Faiz, and then Qurat ul Ain.

In Masooma Syeds’ case, there were ideas of Longing, the Miniature, the Gigantic, the
Souvenir, the Collection that all come to the fore, more exactly in her intrepid usage of nail
clippings paired with silver metal and other disjunctive objects. Thus, a deep strata composed of
actual observation on the one hand, and a rigorous engagement with memory in its various
formations – rememoration and commemoration – ran through all the works, and because the
artists created a year-long conversation, a lyrical duet can be heard playing in The Red Erasure
(Batool) and Red/Surkh (Syed), works striking for their complete disparity, since The Red
Erasure is a series of very small canvases, and Red/Surkh, a gigantic piece replete with large
white-feathered wings. Again, the works were a hybrid collection that essentially created
neo-Gothic echoes of Wim Wenders’ film, ‘Wings of desire’(1987) and an inversion of Anslem
Keifers’ ethos in terms of a highly transformative sensibility.

As mentioned above, the concerns that rooted the exhibition were absurdity and
erasure. Farida Batool in fact clearly voiced this direction of thought: Given the present
backdrop of extreme social and political upheaval and unrest, resounding failures of governance
and a virtual absence of normality, what does it mean to be an artist? Far from pure aesthetics,
and yet perhaps very much in the tone of artistic production in our times, these issues of
threatening locale, philosophical monadism, and existential solipsism are, at base, closely
related to Qurut ul Ains writings. It could be that It is not so much that history repeats itself, but
that we may have wilfully taken paths leading away from true progress and stability. While it is
said that some societies create paradoxes solely in order to resolve them, similarly, our system
of ‘either-or identification’ is ‘beset by problems or conflict’.

Farida Batool and Masooma Syed candidly and ever so gently questioned the position of
aesthetics in a rough and stressful world.They made public the fact that they are as perplexed
as we are, or should be. We are quietly and desperately waiting for signals, all the while making
up alibis.


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