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April 1, 2019

Komail Aijazuddin’s latest art show is a burst of colours and shapes


April 1, 2019

The Canvas Gallery is hosting Komail Aijazuddin’s solo art exhibition titled ‘Secret History’ until April 4. Born in 1984, Aijazuddin is a visual artist and writer.

“I was attending a wedding reception some years ago when it occurred to me that the colour scheme for that most assertive of societal traditions had changed,” the artist statement released by the gallery quotes Aijazuddin as saying.

“I was no longer surrounded by the loud multicoloured patterns of blue, orange, yellow and green geometry popular before the 90s. Those psychedelic prints had been replaced with floating gauzy fabrics, sequinned pastels and walls of cascading flowers.

“I make no normative judgement about this — the evolution seems a natural one — but it did get me thinking about how shape and colour express meaning in culture.

“The old shamiana came from a very specific visual lineage. Seen carefully, it read like a ‘happy’ Islamic geometric pattern, its colours carefully coded to convey one feeling: celebration.

“Much of the present series of work investigates that idea: the way colours, codes and symbols can be used to imply meaning or, in the case with much of this work, obscure it. “The paintings might appear narrative, but they offer no obvious story. Instead, their meaning is embedded in the space where gesture, chroma and pattern intersect.

“The ‘Secret Keepers - II’ is perhaps the most superficially reminiscent of the traditional shamiana, but its pattern is actually from Moorish Spanish architecture; other symbols have more established connotations, like the acorns — medieval allegories for material abundance — hidden in the baroque pattern behind the triptych of well-dressed ‘Watchers’ (inspired by a picture by Amrita Sher-Gil).

“The thorny rose bushes of the ‘Wedding’ were traditionally used through Christian art history to denote Adam and Eve after their fall from Paradise, while the pink paisley vegetation of the ‘Readers’ has a history both pre- and post-colonialism.

“The latticework of the patterns occasionally interact with the figures — like when they form radiating religious halos in ‘Secret Keepers - I’ — or otherwise exist in a parallel, un-touching dimension (‘Autumn’); in the case of ‘Miniature’, which shows figures crowned with Persian religious halos and trapped in the traditional picture frame, they do both.

“Conceptually, the work is also about expectation and promises. Much of the visual content is an expansion of my continued interest in the objects, people, relationships and rituals that we imbibe with reverence.

“I articulated the patterns using highly concentrated dry pigments, which gives the surface a matte, velvet quality. In them the light does not bounce off the surface as it does with my gold-leaf work, but is rather absorbed.

“In some of my earlier work I used gold leaf to play with abstracting the surface, and I consider all these paintings to be abstract. But here the reflective gold (which I’ve used in nearly every piece) is now coded amidst a burst of colours and shapes.

“The figures and patterns are not necessarily meant to appear to exist on the same picture plane, although they are physically on the same canvas. The sense of floating isolation the patterning allows in these works — an abstraction through representation — is a deliberate choice. Hopefully, it encourages the viewer to read the layers of coded symbols to arrive at their own meaning.”

Aijazuddin’s work uses the vocabulary of traditional religious art — gold leaf, illuminations, altar pieces, paintings, scrolls, votive objects — to investigate contemporary ideas of divinity, belief, religion, worship, identity, statehood, belonging, and the question of what constitutes personal faith.

He holds degrees in Studio Art and Art History from the New York University and an MFA from the Pratt Institute, NY. He lives and works between New York City and Lahore.

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