Young artist and writer Ameera Khan looks back at the decade to the art moments that made a splash.

2010: Risham Hosain Syed’s installation

Indians Viewing the Landscape’

“It’s like Inception but make it colonised”

Risham Hosain Syed kickstarted 2010 with her show ‘And the Rest is History’ at Talwar Gallery in New York City. She situates symbols of influence and the power of the past with those from contemporary Pakistani society, often creating ironic and provoking tableaux. In simpler words, she uses stuff from our colonial history and subtly shows us that our psychological evolution is just an illusion and we are as colonised as ever.

In this installation, Syed used a 9th-century painting by Thomas Cole of two Indians viewing the landscape before them in a gilded frame while we in turn view those Indians viewing the landscape sitting on the Victorian chairs set in front of it. It’s like Inception but make it colonised.

2013: Hamra Abbas’s series at the DeCordova Biennale

‘Kaaba Picture as a Misprint’ series

“This work caused a lot of uproar in 2013, but then again, what didn’t get its fifteen minutes of fame in 2013?”

Hamra Abbas pulled a Warhol and followed the format of mass production and consumerism and how an icon can be made out of anything. In this case, it was the souvenirs that are brought back by pilgrims during the Hajj pilgrimage and often found within the Pakistani homes to serve as a portable memory of the sacred ritual.

This work caused a lot of uproar in 2013, but then again, what didn’t get its fifteen minutes of fame in 2013?

2014: Aisha Abid Hussain

Two Not Together’ series

“The coming together of two individuals in holy (or unholy) bonds of marriage is rapidly changing”

The coming together of two individuals in holy (or unholy) bonds of marriage is rapidly changing. Abid Hussain interrogates our assumptions, our clichés and yes, our romance with the institution of marriage. It’s a staged moment, complete with the finery and the trimmings of attire and dreams. Her sheer delight in ostentatious role playing only emphasises the patent ridiculousness of expectations.

2016: Salman Toor

‘Untitled’

“There were rumours of a Pakistani van Gogh on the rise and Instagram blew up with images of artful scenes of partying men”

There were rumours of a Pakistani van Gogh on the rise and Instagram blew up with images of artful scenes of partying men, drinking and nakedness. They were works by Salman Toor whose coarse brushstrokes and pigmented scribbles mirrored van Gogh’s. Every other blogger gushed about how cool they were and how well his paintings fit into their feed, but seldom was it known that the subject matter included self-censorship, the queer community, and family dishonour. Cheery colour palette and a sober message – sound familiar? All that’s left is an ear removed.

2019: Rashid Rana’s installation at Karachi Biennale

‘Beauty Lies’

“You see, context is key in this work otherwise he’s just a wanderer above the sea of garbage”

Taking over local and international art circles by storm in late 2019, Rashid Rana won the Juried Award for his work in the Karachi Biennale. Unfolding in two parts, a video projection and a photo montage, Rana references the iconic painting, ‘Wanderer above the Sea of Fog’ by Caspar David Friedrich, as he stands in one of the largest garbage dumping sites in Pakistan. You see, context is key in this work otherwise he’s just a wanderer above the sea of garbage, toxic waste, and smog.

2019: Nazia Ejaz’s Love Letters to her mother

‘The Queen’

“Makes you realise how foolish it is to wait for Mother’s Day”

Everybody loves the divine Noor Jehan in all her melodious glory, and who better fitted to celebrate that glory than her own flesh and blood, Nazia Ejaz. She was the songstress’s youngest daughter and therefore, the most pampered. Ejaz remembered her mother sending her letters every week while she was studying in England. They were beautifully handwritten, filled with prayers and sentiments, and she used these letters full of love to reminisce and appreciate the memory of her mother. Makes you realise how foolish it is to wait for Mother’s Day.

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