Above: Weekend at Nani’s by Razin Rubin; Below: Staple Food by Zoila Solomon
Above: Weekend at Nani’s by Razin Rubin; Below: Staple Food by Zoila Solomon

Families are complicated. Yet they hold the key to who we are at our very core and where we come from. They are our roots, our branches; we can choose to break away, but their impact will always remain.

This was evident in the latest exhibition at the VM Art Gallery, ‘The Tales They Carry’, one of the two exhibits up for view, which is celebrating young, emerging talent. It features the work of Zoila Solomon, Sarah Mir, Dua Abbas Rizvi and Razin Rubin. It features work based on family archives, memories and what ‘home’ means to the artists. Through this exhibition, they hope to show their stories of belonging.

In her flowy intimate depiction of domestic life, Sarah Mir’s portraits reveal a perfectly imperfect family. Her chosen medium for expression is acrylic on canvas. The paintwork depicts a modern approach with no clear outlines, the painting moving as if being reflected on water. There’s an almost childlike quality, an innocence to her work, as if she’s channelling a very young, minor version of herself, painting each member of her family together, as if for a school project.

An exhibition by four emerging artists showcases their distinctive takes on belonging and family

Dua Abbas Rizvi’s work exhibits a stunning attention to detail. Her portraits are so real, they jump right at you. The only thing that breaks the realistic portrayal are the colours, purple tinged, as if we are looking at a painted version of a film. Her work pays tribute to the family album. Her chosen medium is soft pastel and oil colour on archival paper, giving her work a darker, sombre, yet wholesome tone.

Razin Rubin’s black-and-white, graphite-on-paper portraits are both moving and breathtakingly heart-breaking. “My father always enjoyed taking pictures, he was fond of photography,” wrote Razin Rubin in the description about the story behind her work. “He bought a Kodak camera and took many portraits of my mother and me and my siblings. My mother kept all of these photographs in photo albums which are now kept safely in my cupboard. Whenever I think of my late parents, I look at our family photographs, especially the ones my father took, and recall our conversations and imagine how my life would be if they were alive today.”

Her collection is a mix of photos from family archives and photos of everyday life she’s taken of the people she lives with, the background always resembling the houses her parents had lived in. Using that as a backdrop, through her sketches, she’s recreated a fantasy of both a life once lived and a life that could have been.

Zoila Solomon’s approach is through the Goan community celebrating their lifestyle and culture in Pakistan. Working with gouache on Montval paper, her paintings such as ‘Staple Fruit’ show two women sharing a fruit as a gesture of togetherness. In the top section there is a border of vivid scenery of old and new stitched together, showing other aspects of regular, ordinary moments in the life of a Goan community. The buildings on the border are both a mix of colonial structures as well as those graffitied with colourful murals. For a non-Goan, there is a separateness in the imagery that sets the community apart from others, and yet there is the warm familiarity of familial love in her work.

‘The Tales They Carry’ has been up at the V.M. Art Gallery since July 15 and will close today

Published in Dawn, EOS, August 1st, 2021

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