The radical institutionalization of art practices that have thrived on the precedent of anarchist sentiments give birth to polarized plausibilities that aspire vapid redemption in order to co-exist.
Spaces and the act of acquiring one is a particularly nuanced craft. Graffiti as a form of expression, in the context of it’s history, is rampant with a volatile temperament. Laced with political and social commentary, the very allure of it is due cause of the act itself functioning outside of law. A primal, self-authenticating exhibition. The aesthetics of it escape formal institutional norms, resulting in a kaleidoscopic affair which is cordially defiant. The invitation of such combustible sentiments into the gallery space allows for a negotiation with the gentrification of vandalism.
(Abdullah Ahmed) Sanki King, a pioneering graffiti artist based in Karachi recently displayed his works at the Sanat Gallery. He concludes art to be a rigorous self-fulfilling pursuit, having received no formal education, his style has emerged from nurturing his personal ideals regarding art. A fluid, ravenous, consuming act fueled by the simple desire of expression. King’s expression relies on the very fragile tenacities of human nature, and the destabilization of persistent norms. A gallant attempt, indeed. The bold use of color and the gestural nature of his art itself speaks volumes on his behalf.
Graffiti by virtue of the act itself, acquires a space. The very fact that it’s practice exists outside of law, renders the invitation of it within a gallery space with a bashful abandon. Graffiti itself has become rather mainstream with it’s inclusion into the gallery space internationally, however the transition of the work itself is what is most interesting, or rather the commodification of it. From a cemented wall to a canvas; the transition marks the walls of the gallery space as being partially permeable. Like a sieve, the clotted remains left behind while the rest escapes through.A potent illustration of this can be seen in the work titled ‘Solitude’; a sprawling graffiti adorned on a wall with protruding canvases that can be dissected.
The walls of Karachi are no stranger to ‘wall-chalking, scribbles and marks on walls either in the form of advertisements, political slogans, names of underground groups or the general public voicing their opinions’. King’s metamorphosis of this very occurrence is encapsulated by his version of “calligraffiti”. King’s work emerged from his insatiable appetite for “Urdu poetry, religious literature, and current affairs”. He epitomizes the sanctity of the written word through his vivacious expression. Alphabets and letters contorted into design, appearing like ancient hieroglyphs. He has erected a barrier between the words and the audience, yet the visual reading of the juxtaposition color and form leave the viewer captivated.
All his works have been painted on a black surface, the color of the void. He constructs his works, layer by layer, adding color to it, yet contorting the words he holds so sacred to pure visuals. Each layer, perhaps functioning as a veil. A profound manifestation of thoughts/works as pure aesthetics. Imagery offers the liberty of being visually understood, text however demands to be read, only then can it offer a subjective or objective reading. However when the words, much like human nature itself, construct an exterior image that may offer no sustenance towards readability, yet beautifies itself by virtue of its aesthetics, allows for the layers to function under a pretense. One that can’t be easily excavated through. Or better yet one that has been locked away by the artist himself, beneath the black, that he connotes with an “absence of light”.
King’s works,like a pendulum,oscillates between fickle and the fatal. One veiled with the other. In his work titled Gaze, he has created a portrait with words and alphabets functioning as visual elements. While the text is in plain view, it offers no means to be deciphered. It is almost a disorienting realization to know that just because one can see something doesn’t mean they understand it. The calligraffiti itself serves a metaphor for humans who may find solace in outward appearances while concealing what they desire, much like the manner in which King has used the written script. Supercilious yet invokes a realization of all that lies beneath the surface.
The mobility of King’s work into the space doesn’t simply become about the dislocation of graffiti as a practice, it becomes a sanctuary for expression. His aesthetics are not informed formally, hence the manner in which he has used color and created form itself becomes subversive. The very nature of it is reflected in the facade of Sanat Gallery itself. The exterior wall marked as a conquest. Somewhere between the pandemonium of color there is a quietude that is eulogized by the blatant confession of ‘Ex-Vandals’. A valiant redemption sanctioned by an institution of art itself. Art as word itself functions under the pretense of a ‘noun’, but the essence of it lies in it’s assertion as a ‘verb’. Inherently subversive and abundantly agile, King’s art is best described as a verb.