September 29, 2019


Last Light In A Cave (2019), Maha Ahmed
Last Light In A Cave (2019), Maha Ahmed

The AAN Gandhara Art-Space in Karachi recently opened the third iteration of Microcosm, a curatorial project by Adeel uz Zafar, with the aim to bring forward a sample of young local and Diaspora artists. Focused solely on female artists, the exhibition goes beyond the usual suspects and brings an interesting diversity of thought and experience.

Humaira Abid’s wooden sculpture speaks of motherhood, depicting two pairs of women’s shoes, presumably belonging to a mother and daughter. The immaculately detailed wooden shoes sit on a small shoe rack, above which hangs a wooden toy. Misha Japanwala’s works are a combination of fashion and fine art, using body casts to create hyper-realistic sculptural jewellery that explores the female experience. The eerie neckpiece takes the form of hands resting around a neck, creating something that is both sinister and sensual.

On the other hand, Maha Ahmed’s work is inspired by both Persian miniature and Japanese Yamato-e style painting, and makes use of negative space to talk about intangible boundaries that emerge from our gendered and racial experiences. Her language is vague and metaphorical, with characters almost camouflaged in dense foliage. They are revealed upon closer inspection and appear to be a strange hybrid species, moving beyond the bounds of biological norms.

A group show brings together young female artists to present their diverse concerns

The sculptures by Bushra Waqas Khan take the affidavit as a motif repeated to create a woman’s dress. Apart from the connotation of the power that official legal documents have on a woman’s body and clothing, the national symbols plastered on what looks like a Victorian era dress also add a colonial narrative to the work.

However, not all works are focused on a gender-based narrative. Howra Batool’s work looks at materiality and uses it to talk about human suffering and transformation. The forms that her work creates are oddly organic and human, like folds of flesh and skin, and appear to be in a state of movement and change. Rubaba Haider’s work interprets traditional Hazarahi techniques of weaving and embroidery as a minimalist metaphor for everyday life. The thin, fragile gauze-like fabric in her drawings and the violent tears and holes then become apt representations of life, relationships and cultural violence.

Sarah Mahmood’s sculptural installation is another sombre piece that depicts the human condition; disembodied shoulders and chest hang by a belt on a large wooden stake. There is dehumanisation and quiet violence to the piece that is quite morbid.

Mother And Child III (2019), Humaira Abid
Mother And Child III (2019), Humaira Abid

Some of the works offer institutional critique. Sheema Khan’s sculptural installation presents a pair of legs and hands at a desk, in front of a miniature painting of the sculpture itself. The artist seems to be stepping back and looking in at the process of art-making, reducing the human body to merely a tool.

A collection of such diverse ideas and issues becomes a microcosm of our era, and especially of the young generation, allowing the audience to look at the world from their perspective. What is most refreshing, however, is that a show with exclusively female artists does not solely focus on women’s issues, but provides a true picture of the diverse issues that female artists are talking about.

Smile Please (2019), Bushra Waqas Khan
Smile Please (2019), Bushra Waqas Khan

“Microcosm 3” is being display at AAN Gandhara Art-Space in Karachi from August 22 to September 29, 2019

Published in Dawn, EOS, September 29th, 2019