The recycled dervish

Published March 24, 2015
Voice in the Head
Voice in the Head

KARACHI: Scholars believe that the difference between serious and trash literature is that the former highlights, in some cases illuminates, the human condition whereas the latter is created with an eye to gain commercial benefits by arousing frivolous interest in the reader by using words. Artist Khalil Chishtee has imparted a new meaning to ‘trash bags’ by employing them as a medium to express his views on the issues of the ‘self’. This can be seen in an exhibition of his artworks titled Detritus from exploding stars that began at the Sanat Gallery on Friday.

The first untitled exhibit might not give away the artist’s intention of why he chose trash bags to articulate himself; it’s the figures that he makes with them leave the viewer with no option but to marvel at his art. There are multiple interpretational possibilities — ranging from a free spirit not allowed to spread wings to misreading an important moment. And that’s where the beauty of the show lies, because even in the artwork ‘Artist’s statement’ the situation remains delightfully open to interpretation, with perhaps one hint: the plastic wires. The medium is the message.

Truly Yours
Truly Yours

However, it is with ‘Recycled dervish’ that Chishtee makes a huge impression … and the real statement. The blue bag still dominates the scene, with the only difference that the beard of the figure is orange. This is worth discussing. Of late, Sufism has become one of the most bandied about topics in the country, especially espoused by those who come from the western part of the globe. Chishtee here clears his position by hinting that there’s no use complicating the topic. The dervish’s position in society is not of one that challenges authority or sets the rules. He is there as a symbol of spirituality that is more personal than societal, which can cut both ways, good and evil.

‘Voice in the head’ talks about the ambivalence of thought, and does so with an endearing degree of affection. Chishtee doesn’t make it look like the journey where one is trying to discover one’s self. Rather, a place where you are in a dialogue with your alter ego — a moving, fluid dialogue.

The exhibition, curated by Nafisa Rizvi, will remain open till April 4.

PS: Don’t be confused by the word ‘detritus’ in the title of the show. The medium of his artworks is an oxymoronic take on the utility of everything that contributes to life.

Published in Dawn, March 24th, 2015

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