Saturday, January 10, 2015

Local YET Global - II - Risham Syed

December is a great time to be in Karachi; weather is more amenable to outdoor activities, people are dressed better and food is somehow more enjoyable. So the timing of Ms Syed's latest exhibition at the start of December at Canvas was a definite plus. But Artwallaa, is not writing about this exhibition because of this trivial facet of the exhibition, but rather because this exhibition again highlights the growing sophistication of the local art shows - hence the title of this article - Local YET Global - II.  (see - Local YET global - Adeel-uz-Zafar - October 26, 2014)

Artwallaa has always been curious about Ms Syed's works and the whole thought process behind them, as she does not show very often, is a little bit of a 'recluse' as compared to a lot of other artists who are always 'out there' and more importantly she delves into much more conceptual art than most of the other main stream artists.

Experiencing Syed's work is un-nerving. One cannot just have a cursory look at the works, get the message/meaning from them instantly and then move on.

For each of her works, it is difficult to make immediate sense of what the work is about; both in its physical appearance as well as metaphorically speaking. it was very evident in the recently concluded exhibition - 'Kaal Pakhan' (Black Birding).

Atteqa Ali has put it very well in a recently published article in Dawn, "Unlike some other well-known Pakistani artists who seem to get stuck using the same type of imagery over and over again in a stamp-like, cut-and-paste method, Syed’s incorporation of similar parts and pictures from one work to the next is done in such a way that it makes sense. She never does it in exactly the same manner, blindly putting down the same image no matter the context.

Instead, the artist’s use of sewing and embroidery makes perfect sense in each work, for example in this body of work; a quilt seems to serve as the guide for the exhibition. Entitled ‘Kaal Pakhan’, “black birding” is a term that emerges from a particular moment in history. Black birds served as “guards” that exposed escaping slaves by screeching their terrible calls. This multifaceted quilt takes this reference to the British from other parts of its colonial empire and applies it to contemporary Pakistan. Other elements sewn on to the bedding suggest both imperial rule and life in the post-colonial nation today. The viewer has to put together the story in a way that makes sense to him or her." (Dawn, January 11, 2015)

Enjoy the images !

Source: Canvas Gallery ( for all images in the article)

Installation shots

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