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April 12, 2021

Exploring the latent aggression held within humans and objects


April 12, 2021

The Canvas Gallery in Karachi is hosting an art exhibition featuring the works of Suleman Faisal until April 16. ‘Orange Sisyphus’ is a Vasl-Khurram Kasim Art Foundation (KKAF) Research Grant solo show.

“There is a certain kind of instinctive affiliation pertaining to tools and how we use them; each tool has a specific function that changes the way they are utilised,” the exhibition catalogue released by the gallery quotes the artist as saying.

“As an artist and a former labourer myself, I have had experiences ranging from working in an assembly line making mass-produced products to assisting in visual merchandising for popular conglomerates. My experience shifted from being an individual worker labouring on commission to an artist reaching within myself towards the depths of creative expression.

“This shift was the catalyst in the evolution of my world view, which changed drastically as I reflected on various differing perspectives about what tools mean and how this meaning changes from person to person, and what this says about the individuals themselves.

“As artists, most of us are labourers of a sort, but our experience tends to be one of a labour of love as opposed to a marriage of convenience. “When we look at the experience of a child who works in a factory or quarry, it is incredibly distinct from the type of labour that is borne out of passion and dedication.

“That is the idea that I have attempted to tease out through my practice, recently and in my learnt experiences over the last few years. “As I have unfolded different aspects of these experiences, I have come to the realisation that there is an inherent fallacy in the way these tools are perceived by different classes of society.

“Someone in my position has the luxury and ability to use them at my discretion, and perhaps even celebrate this play. The objects created for this showcase are one part, a homage to those tools that have made me the person that I am. “In that case, these objects are also very telling of the experience of the labourer who earns through them. One is a compulsion and one is a form of catharsis. The inherently transparent material has been playfully moulded into different objects that are all made to commemorate these differing perspectives.

“The orange hues radiate a sense of warmth and happiness in the viewer’s mind, which in addition to the bows and wrapping paper, help form a strong association with the act of gift-giving, behind which lurks a much more sinister context introducing a darker side of labour practices.

“I can’t help but also highlight how these tools mean completely different things to someone who is trained to use them for reward and remuneration, and me who is in awe of their aesthetic potential.

“Whether you see the playful nature of these objects that evokes the viewer’s imagination in some, or a fallacy in the way they are crafted and presented as tools of mobility and hard labour, there is much to be said on how their connotation shifts.

“The showcase of these objects as interactive and playful aims to dissect the levels of representation that each of these objects brings to us all. Like Sisyphus toiling monotonously on and on, through my work I invite the viewer on this journey into the capitalist attitudes of constant productivity.”

Faisal is a Lahore-based artist whose work spans sculpture, video and performance. His multidisciplinary artworks explore the latent aggression held within humans and objects, and the minor violences carried out through socially acceptable activities such as cooking, hosting or manufacturing.

This interest in power balances and tools is influenced by his personal history working in the toy-making and plastic industries, in addition to his exploration of the diverse socioeconomic conditions of the city in which he lives.

He graduated in 2017 with distinction in fine arts from Lahore’s National College of Arts (NCA), the leading arts university of Pakistan, where he currently teaches. He has taken part in artist residencies at the Vasl Artists’ Association in Karachi (2020) and the Pioneer Cement Residency curated by the Canvas Gallery (2017).

He has also showcased his work in group exhibitions, including ‘For the Wicked and the Valiant’ at Lahore’s O Art Space (2021), ‘A Site for the Sight’ in the Lahore Biennale (2020), ‘Microcosm II’ at Karachi’s Aan Gandhara Art Space (2018), ‘Transition in Time’ at the NCA’s Zahoor ul Akhlaq Gallery (2018), ‘Four Rooms’ in the Lahore Biennale at the Punjab Institute of Language, Art & Culture (2018), and ‘Beneath the Surface’ at the Canvas Gallery (2017).

He has been commissioned to produce public realm works and monumental projects for Coca-Cola, Fazaia Housing Scheme and Wapda Town in Sargodha, Bahria Town Karachi, Lahore Shadman Junction and Alkaram Studio. In 2020 he had received the Vasl-KKAF Research Grant, the culmination of which is being exhibited at the Canvas Gallery.

Faisal is the third recipient of the Vasl-KKAF Research Grant 2020-2021, chosen from Vasl’s 12th Taaza Tareen residency ‘Echoes of the Walls’. The jury panel for the selection of the grant recipient comprised Naiza Khan, Rabeya Jalil, Risham Syed and Sameera Raja.

Taaza Tareen is Vasl Artists’ Association’s flagship artists’ residency programme. Four emerging artists and an art writer are selected from over 80 applicants from across Pakistan. Founded in 2005, Taaza Tareen was devised as a stepping stone for fresh graduates from Pakistani art institutes to build their careers.

Over the years Taaza Tareen has supported over 75 artists at a formative stage of their professional lives. Each year one exceptional Taaza Tareen resident is awarded the Vasl-KKAF Research Grant, selected by a panel of entrenched art professionals.

The Vasl-KKAF Research Grant is awarded to emerging artists who are not only diligent in their respective works but also committed to their practice by showing dedication and an avid interest in building close ties within the arts community.

Recipients receive the opportunity to build relationships with diverse creative practitioners and the Vasl network, in addition to a solo exhibition at the prestigious Canvas Gallery.

The KKAF was established in order to provide a platform that supports all modes of artistic expressions from and within Pakistan. From 2018 through 2024, the KKAF is committed to sponsor the yearlong research grant to a qualifying Taaza Tareen artist. Since 2018 the Canvas Gallery has been hosting culminating exhibitions of the Vasl-KKAF Research Grant.