Wednesday, October 3, 2012

A sensitive artist with global outlook and vision

One of the names selected to represent India’s first ever pavilion at the Venice Biennale 2011 was renowned engraver and sculptor Zarina Hashmi who also had a one-person show at the Istanbul Biennale later, exploring nuanced relations between politics and art, soon to be followed by a major retrospective of her work at the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles.

The core theme of the official pavilion at Venice revolved around complex yet engaging themes of history, migration and displacement presented from a transcultural point of view, which incidentally recur in her oeuvre. Simultaneously, Paris based Jaeger Bucher Gallery had hosted her year-long solo, entitled ‘Noor’, It comprised of works on paper, installations and her papier mâché sculptures from the early 1980s.

The feeling of loss is omnipresent when one inspects the 36 engravings that form part of a body of work ‘Home is a Foreign Place’. The artist spreads out literally hundreds of drawings. Like a scar, they are repeatedly cut through by a line to the border between the two warring neighbors, India and Pakistan; drawings that resemble constellations, imbibe an afternoon siesta’s lethargic, viscously cloying time in midst of the slatted half-light of drawn blinds or soak up musical sounds with heartbeats and their rhythmical records.

This internationally renowned Indian artist conceives an engaging engraved and architectural cartography on a wooden surface. Her practice seems dedicated to the continual quest for this lost site to which she strives to draw the map, alternating between local and global, mental or physical spaces. A global citizen and an impenitent voyager, she experienced the miseries frontiers can inflict.

The Partition line between India and Pakistan that frames the pain of exile and pricking nostalgia for a land permanently lost – with political borders redrawn forcing her family to migrate to Karachi, now in Pakistan. Her maps of countries ravaged by ethnic violence, indelible engravings depict the destruction etched into the heart. The artist invariably develops a new creative idea with a word, and not a visual image. This calligraphic element is very obvious in many of works like ‘Letters and Travels with Rani’ (2008), carrying the shared memories and a touch of nostalgia associated with the years spent in the Indian sub-continent.

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