An exhibition featuring social malaise and personal memories opened at the Nomad Gallery on Saturday.

Two young artists – Mohsin Shafi and Saadia Hussain – exhibited their works at No Man’s Land. Their pieces were a combination of mixed media, photography, text, painting and collages that capture fleeting imagery from history, societal conflicts and the inner self.

The exhibition generates nostalgic narratives in both the personal and the collective imagination.

The curator of the exhibition and Nomad Gallery’s director Nageen Hyat said: “Intrinsically linked, the forms in the both artists’ work aim to create an interface between seemingly divergent understanding of assimilation and culture, reflecting a very personal ideology as well as a fluid sense of self, moving between text and image, the sacred, the mundane, and the profane.”

Mr Shafi’s work is a dialogue on social issues between the art and the viewer. With a master’s from the National College of Arts in Lahore, he has practiced with mixed mediums, such as collages, installations, prints and photography, using multiple images with text in the background in hand-cut paper in synthetic frames.

In his ‘Intermission’ and ‘Kaleidoscope’ series, Mr Shafi subtly highlights the marginalisation and persecution of vulnerable segments of society, such as women, religious minorities and transgender people.

Photos by Tanveer Shahzad.
Photos by Tanveer Shahzad.

He told Dawn: “Art is an effective tool to reflect on social issues, class contradictions and the vanishing cultural heritages. With collective work and personal practice, I try toreclaim and use public spaces which have been encroached upon by retrogressive forces.”

Using his work, Mr Shafi deconstructs narratives about and stereotyping of women. In one part of the ‘Kaleidoscope’ series, he shows four men serving a woman holding a commanding posture, to depict feminism and the strength and empowerment of women.

‘We Are Family’, showing two clerics embracing each other and with lots of posters in the background with religious texts as are common during religious months and festivities, is a comment on the cultural and religious diversity which should be celebrated rather than exploited.

He uses worn out, invisible, small and ordinary objects and unassuming images in his art.

Mr Shafi said: “I exploit my unadulterated access to the deepest emotions embedded beneath the surface, only to explore the whispered secrets of dreams and long buried memories. This is my burden, my struggle constant, in hopes to validate the ‘I’.”

Photos by Tanveer Shahzad.
Photos by Tanveer Shahzad.

In ‘Inside James Bond’ he questions the blurred edges between identity and the intentions of identity.“I investigate the dark recesses of the relevant human psyche, to explore a reality of ghouls and monsters. This I assume to be an effort to recreate my world, in a no man’s land.”

Ms Hussain’s work includes paintings and photo construction in mixed media on digital print, and is based on family photographs and personal snapshots.

‘Four Soldiers’ and ‘Unknown Soldiers’ contain images borrowed from acquaintances and even taken from social media to create the illusion of a complex reality.

She has also painted women in traditional royal dress and jewellery, and blurred images and spaces by overlapping figures to depict the trauma, love and resilience of women in patriarchal society in pieces such as ‘Ladies with Love and Roses’, ‘The Wait’ and ‘The Centre Man’.

Ms Hussain’s work is focused on translating the pictorial language and reinterpretation of photographs into her own visual vocabulary, Ms Hyat said.

“These are disturbing interpretations of familiar subjects, slumbering histories and buried traumas. These perceived images hence become facets of my current persona, both real and imagined,” said Ms Hussain, who is a visiting professor as NCA Lahore where she also completed her masters.

Through a play with an image and text, she has attempted to communicate multiple interpretations of a narrative and the one true meaning. In doing so, she poses more questions than answers.

She said that for her, photography is way to tell a story and evoke a feeling, and her goal is to translate history into a story of which fantasy is an essential element.

The show will continue until Dec 31.


Originally published in Dawn, December 17th, 2018

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