Motifs and Monuments

Talal Faisal takes us to a recent show featuring two artists using dislocation and relocation to create new imagery

Motifs and Monuments
A two-person show opened at the Taseer Gallery in Lahore on the 16th of September 2019, showcasing the works of two promising artists hailing from the School of Visual Arts, Beaconhouse National University (BNU). Both of them, having displayed their art abroad previously, saw this as a perfect opportunity to present their works to a local audience in the very city from where their ideas and art first took form.

Tayyab Tariq’s practice is deeply rooted in modernist concerns yet exudes a contemporary approach towards form and function, as he assumes the role of a third party which tends to intervene in an attempt to upset and in some cases completely strip the object of its usual functionality. These concerns of form deconstruction and reconfiguration result in a resemblance of his visual language and vocabulary to the famous group of Mexican artists that explored the everyday in a similar fashion: Gabriel Orozco, Damian Ortega, Abraham Cruzvillegas and Gabriel Kuri. The most common object that has in one way dominated his Art practice in portraying his concerns of influence and power dynamics is the chair, an object with which he has a long-lasting association (since sophomore year) and that he believes has an attitude of patronizing superiority. Two such dysfunctional chairs were on display, a black one seated on the floor of the gallery and a glittered red one pinned to the wall – that latter one evocative of the crucifixion of Christ, an event that was the aftermath of radical criticism of the system of dominance then in place.

'Moor II'

Also what Tayyab Tariq had to offer was a fresh take on truck art – and this comprised a body of work, six compositions in total. The artist made use of local truck art objects that are seen gracing the bodies of these humongous vehicles of transportation that we come across in the urban landscape. When asked about the process that went into the making of these works, the artist replies that he had started collecting these objects back then in 2014 but was constantly wondering how to bring them into use in a manner that could best portray his concerns. The outcome was this series of works in which he extracted the colour palette of the respective truck art objects and placed those very objects on top of those Frank Stella-like compositions. Three pieces titled “Patang 1”, “Phool 1” and “Moor 1” took the form of optical illusions – which are usually abstract in nature and create an impression of patterns, movement and overlapping.

Senior Professor at the Maryam Daud School of Visual Arts at BNU Mrs. Nazish Ataullah considers this to to be Op Art, rather than Pop Art. The geometry of the pieces is reminiscent of the Shamiana. “That, combined with truck art motifs, makes it truly urban” she adds.

'Balloon cart'

Kashif Shahbaz, on the other hand, delivered a fresh perspective on art to the audience in Lahore by displaying highly realistic rendered animation works for the first time. Prior to this, he had been producing works in a print medium that, in my view, could be collectively termed as the “spectacle of the absurd”. Shahbaz’s concerns and approach towards art-making stem from Jean-Paul Sartre’s philosophy of existentialism whereby existing or acting a certain way gives meaning to life. Similarly, the artist uses found imagery and makes interesting interventions by incorporating existing artwork in search of new meaning, new context, new narratives and new images. Hence the original image and the existing artwork both go through dislocation and then relocation that gives birth to a new image.
Tayyab Tariq assumes the role of a third party which tends to intervene in an attempt to upset and in some cases completely strip the object of its usual functionality

An example was the print on display titled “balloon cart” that was an amalgamation of a found image of a landscape, a boy riding a donkey cart across a dusty tribal landscape fused together with world-renowned sculptor Jeff Koon’s most recognizable piece “The balloon dog”, that is considered to be the most expensive artwork by a living artist. This weird juxtaposition gives rise to a satirical take, linking ruthless American dominance and agression in global politics to American supremacy in the art market as a result of the unpalatable commericialization of art.

'Build the wall'

Another powerful work loaded with cynicism and dark humour, along similar lines of influence and control, was an animation on loop, depicting an inflattable Donald Trump hovering within the confines of a mosque, the artist thereby shedding light upon the way conflicts are manufactured for the sake of dominance. With this piece, the artist comments on issues of the marginalization of minority ethnic groups and the rise of Islamophobia in the country that claims to be home to the largest number of immigrants. The title was an interesting if familiar one: “Build the wall”.

It would be unfair to conclude this feature without making mention of the showstopper, the piece titled “Error already exists” - which drew the greatest attention of all, probably because of its display outside the confines of the gallery and its provocative nature. With this piece the artist comments on the unfortunate linking of fetish to faith, and on the blind dependency upon irrational claims. Eventually, as far as this artist is concerned, it becomes a tool to silence strong and powerful voices once a politicized faith transcends the personal domain.

Talal Faisal is an artist based in Lahore