Perhaps your eyes shall apprehend one day, Every soiled page, left blank by the arrest of Word…
Written in 1953 by Faiz Ahmed Faiz, these lines from the poem ‘Memory’ are an ode to resistance. The poem invokes the prerequisite of remembrance of every soiled page of history and collective resonance, so that one day we shall rise up in protest. Inspired by this insight, Dubai-based Ishara Art Foundation presents—Every Soiled Page—from the Prabhakar collection, the personal collection of Ishara Art’s founder, Smita Prabhakar.
The exhibition, on till December 19, focuses on different surfaces and materials on which memories, traces, imprints and songs reside. It explores unifying imageries and artist-viewer participation. Curated by Sabih Ahmed, associate director and curator at the foundation, the exhibition features works from artists Anju Dodiya, Astha Butail, Neha Choksi, Praneet Soi and Sunil Padwal, besides a newly commissioned performance installation by Inder Salim.
Dodiya being part of the exhibition is a natural extension of her angry sensibility. Her paintings are acts of rebellion and exorcism. Here she uses self-portraiture to explore conflicts between inner life and external reality, plundering a multitude of historical sources such as Indian miniatures, French medieval tapestries and newspaper photographs. Dodiya says, “They explore a private and turbulent mindscape. They seek adventure, yet are aware of their own fragile nature.” These “bodies”, as she calls them, coexist with ironic calm in an atmosphere stained with unease, thereby bridging the dramatic intensity of the subjects and the subtleties of her creative method.
Choksi’s method of communication is just the opposite. She has exploited the grain in veneer sheets to make woodcuts of startling simplicity. “To create a woodcut, you typically gouge into the surface of the wood, removing parts you don’t want to print and ink the remaining surface in relief. I carve a circle on an entire piece of veneer with the blade mark leaving its kerf missing. This helps the woodcut lines detach the circle from the surrounding material. The pattern of the grain is disrupted, the connection broken, at the same time, the communication is ever so slightly connected,” she explains.
The unique aspect of this exhibition is that all the artists have taken different paths and mediums to arrive at the soul of dissent. Soi’s work ranges from painting, drawing, video to site-specific installations.
The surrounding social and economic landscape defines his work. Unrest in the Middle East, Pakistan and Afghanistan following 9/11, led him to create a series of miniature paintings. His travels across Israel-occupied Palestine resulted in his 2019 exhibition at the Mosaic Rooms, London. Similar to Soi, Padwal reflects the unsettling nature of contemporary urban life.
A series of complex drawings suggest our helplessness to escape the everyday reality. Also, like Soi, he uses many mediums to present a visual exploration into his personal and emotional experiences. The multi-media approach is a favourite with most artists in the exhibition. Combining the roles of artist and researcher, Butail has depended on intensive research process. “The abstraction of a circle or a circular pattern in nature or oral traditions—which are also circular—brings me closer to an inner dwelling connected through many doors and windows,” she says.
Salim, a conceptual performance artist and poet, merges his body-centric work with viewer participation. Expertly using video and photography, besides the internet, each work is a reflection on the relationship between art and its relevance to the world. The means and methods may be different, but the purpose of the exhibition is one—proposing art as a site of reverse creative archaeology. With collaborative and live performances that negotiate relationships in unconventional settings, the works are an ode to the cultural and social contexts of the times.
when & Where
The exhibition can be viewed at The Ishara Art Foundation, Dubai, and will also be available at: http://isharaartfoundation.com