Art mart: Encountering the double

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The kingdom of God is within you, Sana Kazi
The kingdom of God is within you, Sana Kazi

A doppelganger is a double or second self; it literally means ‘double-walker’ in the German language. In literature, dream analysis or archetypal symbolism, the doppelganger is often figured as a twin or mirror image of the protagonist. It characteristically appears as identical to or closely resembling the protagonist.

Endowed with an uncertain mythological dimension, the doppelganger is fundamentally romantic and literary: the recommencing it involves has the particular characteristic, in relation to the classical notion of the double, of being internal. The interior aspect of the phenomenon of splitting leads the individual to consider himself as something other, while remaining himself. Necessarily experienced privately, this dissociation effect is quite common, at least to a limited degree and sometimes to the point of breakdown; thus the doppelganger fluctuates between being a figure of ‘de-structuration’ and a universally shared structure.

An interesting group show by the same name “Doppelganger” recently opened at the Khaas Art Gallery in Islamabad. The 12-person exhibition brings together several versions of the phenomenon. Curated by Aasim Akhtar, the artists Anas Ghauri, Amra Khan, Alia Bilgrami, Haider Ali Jan, Inaam Zafar, Madiha Hyder, Maria Khan, Nadia Batool Hussain, Naira Mushtaq, Sheraz Faisal, Sana Kazi and Scherezade Junejo represent their hypotheses regarding the doppelganger’s modes of formation and existence, which cannot be imagined, deconstructed or prompted.


The artists portray the doppelganger’s modes of formation and existence in their artworks


There is a remarkable and thought-provoking mix of different mediums that have been used by the artists. Whether it is Khan’s fascinating acrylics on linen, Hyder’s captivating oils on digital print, Zafar’s, Junejo’s and Mushtaq’s traditional oils on canvas and board, Bilgrami’s gouache on wasli or Faisal’s digital prints on archival paper, each painter has made a statement with his or her own paintings.

Ghauri’s ghost like rendition of the theme is skilful and seems supernatural. His proficiently rendered charcoal and graphite on paper — both ‘Untitled’ pieces — bring together the phantom double. A creative and classical vigour is obvious in Kazi’s two pieces ‘The kingdom of God is within you’ and ‘Untitled’. In her paintings the double is a truly folkloric, superstitious and arcane motif where she has used unconventional materials such as ash, sawdust and brick powder on wasli, to formulate a locus of visual power over the viewer who ponders over them.

Him, Haider Alli
Him, Haider Alli

Zafar’s two pieces ‘The virtual shrink’ and ‘In position’ explores virtual reality whereby enlightening flatness impersonates the electronic media while keeping with the resolution of painting. The paintings are transfixing making one think, perhaps having a hypnotic magic on the viewer.

There is an aesthetic consensus in the official establishment of technical practices where the artist has become a specialist. In this show the respective artists have spoken of the surreal and along with it, praised the surreal.

Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, October 18th, 2015

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