Painting Over the Lines: Five Contemporary Artists from Pakistan
York Quay Gallery, Harbourfront 235 Queens Quay West, Toronto, Ontario
Organized by Karin Miller-Lewis and Mahnaz Fancy of the IndoCenter of Art & Culture.
Presented by SAVAC (South Asian Visual Arts Collective)
July 12 – September 15, 2002
York Quay Gallery, Harbourfront, in Toronto, Ontario
235 Queens Quay West
Featuring works by five artists trained at Lahore’s National College of Arts,
Sylvat Aziz, Hamra Abbas, Rashid Rana, Ali Raza, and Risham Syed.
Painting Over the Lines provides a glimpse into the vital culture of a country in transition. Until recently, the culture and politics of Pakistan have received sporadic attention on the world stage. But over the last year, the need to understand its contemporary conflicts, culture and history has acquired an unprecedented urgency.
The works in this exhibition emerge out of a period of dramatic fluctuations within Pakistan: from the strict restrictions of General Mohammad Zia ul-Haq’s rule in the 1980s, to escalating tensions with India and the still unfolding events under General Pervez Musharraf. As members of a generation that came of age in these years, these artists represent a contemporary Pakistan that is actively engaged in dialogue with the world beyond its borders.
Drawing from a wide range of materials, images, and practices from both Pakistan’s cultural heritage and contemporary global art, the artists in this exhibition question pre-definitions imposed from within and without the nation. Through their works they offer new and critical ways to understand Pakistan’s complex cultural landscape.
Using the critical strategies of conceptual art, Hamra Abbas places consumer products on pedestals in front of her carefully executed miniatures. Her works simultaneously lampoon the ubiquity of commercial values and the cultural inflation of high art and suggest that the complexities of Pakistani society owe much to its ambivalent relationship with global culture. Ms. Abbas received her MFA at the National College of Art, Lahore, in 2001. Painting Over the Lines is her first exhibition outside of Pakistan.
In this selection from a series of digital prints made from her own photographs, borrowed art historical images and paint, Sylvat Aziz addresses important if elusive social and political issues such as secreted histories of violence in a romanticized past and the place of Muslim women in modern Pakistan and the West. Ms. Aziz has participated in many solo and group international exhibitions. In 1997, she was selected to take part in the Rockefeller Foundation-funded Memories and Modernities: Art from the Islamic World which traveled from the Venice Bienale to Turkey. She is Assistant Professor of Painting and Drawing at Queens University, Kingston, Ontario.
With sardonic humor, Rashid Rana’s paintings incorporate imagery from current popular film, the left over monuments of the subcontinent’s colonial past, and Urdu text. He underlines the difficulty of locating and defining a culture after colonialism and in this age of globalization. Rashid Rana’s work has been exhibited and collected by institutions and individuals in the United States and Asia.
Juxtaposing two canvases of equal dimension, the surfaces of Ali Raza’s recent work are covered with images and styles borrowed from Mughal miniatures, everyday observation, geometric forms and patterns. Urging the viewer’s eye to travel across the dividing line of the bipartite work, he explores the connections between past and present. Currently on faculty at the University of Minnesota, where he also received an MFA in 2001, Ali Raza has shown in Pakistan, the UK and the USA. He was also included in the traveling exhibition Another Vision: 50 Years of Art From Pakistan. Painting Over the Lines provides the first opportunities to see his work in New York and Toronto.
In her needlework series, Risham Syed makes icons of the familiar electric irons, microwaves and Western-packaged baby products found in middle class Pakistani homes. But her spare compositions in conjunction with her deadpan titles also strip the images of their allure. Her use of sentimental feminine imagery quietly goes against the grain to expose and urge society beyond the trappings that would restrain women’s lives. Ms. Syed has participated in many solo and group exhibitions, including the 1998 Mappings: Shared Histories, the significant gathering of Indian and Pakistani artists that examined post-colonial and post-partition histories of the two nations. She has been selected to represent Pakistan at the upcoming Fukuoka Asian Art Triennial.