Being and becoming at Tanzara Art Gallery


Being and becoming at Tanzara Art Gallery

The solo presentation titled “Being and Becoming” by Zaam Arif is being held at Tanzara Art Gallery in Islamabad. The exhibition features a series of

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The solo presentation titled “Being and Becoming” by Zaam Arif is being held at Tanzara Art Gallery in Islamabad. The exhibition features a series of figurative oil paintings with multiple male protagonists as the central subjects, painted in a muted colour palette. The emerging artist is currently completing his Bachelor in Fine Arts majoring in Design based in Houston, USA. The selection of figurative poses has gestural energy with soft lines, painterly strokes and a close examination of light on each figure. The foundation of the paintings is in the artist’s investigation of figurative drawing. Each painting has an initial first drawing sketch of the figure in various positions that include standing, reclining, standing and sitting. 

In the painting “Being and Time” there is a seated figure holding his chin and smoking a cigarette unaware of his environment. The figure is microscopic compared to the dense group of trees that engulf him. The space around the figure is indecipherable purposely painted with paler, darker and heavy tones that are unfamiliar and unnatural. The artist’s visual world seems to be in a state of an eclipse, where the light is constantly shifting, the shadows have depth and the colours are diffused, limiting his colour palette to the darker and heavier tones. The painting drives its narrative from the symbolism of nature reflecting the protagonist’s inner state of being. “Becoming” is charged with the anguish of the protagonist that is visible through the tight interlocking of the fingers over his face, with the elbows almost touching each other, the viewer instantly imagines the sensation of pain this pose would induce in their own shoulder blades. The despair expressed in the painting starts to become a relatable memory from our own personal experiences of the past.        

Zaam Arif knows how to use light to create an emotional landscape around his shadowy figures. The weight carried by the light blends and mixes into all the various shades on the canvas traveling in various directions in the painting. The painting strokes across the entire body of work are deliberately heavy with short lengths that creates a compression of space around the figures. These are emotional works indicative of the anguish surrounding each subject as seen in the paintings “Becoming” and “My Memory Betrays Me”. The spatial exploration of the artist is another layer of psychological meaning behind the choice of perspective and the background hosting a landscape. There is a clear horizon in the painting “Dasein” that can be read as a metaphor for our human inability to connect with the infinity of space and thought outside our own mind and body. Or perhaps the relaxed reclining figure is basking in a pale light perchance taking a carefree afternoon map escaping into the welcoming abyss of a dream state. 

There are several psychological indicators left by the artists in his paintings in the form of an open doorway in the painting “Mirror” and “Either / Or” where the protagonist chooses to look away from these sublime oceanic shores. There are open books, empty bottles and windows with light flooding into the darker interior space. The mood is contemplative and yet the figure seems detached from the environment completely isolated. “The Sacrifice” has a boy looking out of the canvas straight at the viewer with a lush green field filling up the background, in the distance, there is a weathered house with a single door and window. The green shades of grass are fresh and the stark contrast to the algae green hues of neighbouring paintings. The sunlight on the portrait matches the one falling on the house in the background creating an unmistakable connection between the two.

Amidst every day, the mundane business like apparel, the quest of the man hard at work there is an approach dread in the shape of water, forest, shadowy figures lurking in the background and the rotting of the flesh in hues of pale ochre, burnt umber and crimson. In the painting “Limbo” the sketching of the figure placed on the bed is meticulous, with the lit cherry of the cigarette burning brightly in the dark. The shadowy figure outside the window creates a visual echo, a parallel to a memory or a forgotten past self. Is this window an opening showing us the inner turmoil of the protagonist. This series of characters that the artist has chosen can be viewed as self-portraiture and a commentary on the complexity of modern individualism. It is certain that each painting carries a tension and determination that is layered with both emotions and rationalism.  

The artist has titled two paintings after characters from the book “Crime and Punishment” written by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. “Svidrigailov” and “Raskolnikov” show two obscure partially visible figures in two different environments. As said by the character Raskolnikov “Pain and suffering are always inevitable for a large intelligence and a deep heart” are shared by the artist. The deep investigation of desire, impulse and actions related to the human condition are central themes to Zaam Arif’s paintings.