An aptitude for symmetric alternatives

October 23, 2022

Artist Faizan Naveed’s primary focus is on perception and comprehension of time and space through lens-based media

An aptitude for symmetric alternatives


naltered memorandum from John Fowles: One cannot describe reality; only contribute metaphors that indicate it. All creative modes of description—photographic, mathematical, and therest—and literary expressions are also metaphorical. Even the most detailed scientific description of an object or movement is chockfullof metaphors.

Faizan Naveed is an emerging visual artist from the Global South whose primary investigation prompts the question: how does one unlearns to relearnand decipher mindscapes by looking at minimalist works of art or recorded instances from the everyday ambience?Naveed’s primary focus is on perception and comprehension of time and space through lens-based media and installations- most of the time, if not always. In his recent solo, Autumn Leaves, exhibited at CastelnuovoFotografiaFestival 2022 inItaly, Naveed’s work from the series uses the universal lens of ambiguity to explore the multi-modality of being simultaneouslynear and afar. The artist’s disposition to pose questions helps him move away fromtraditional photographic practices, using the cameraas a tool to collect the documentary evidence.Naveed has expanded his quest to lens-based practice and delved into the world of conceptual photography with a sense of continuity, integration and associationwith ordinary yet unique threads of suburban anthropology and topography. People and places that appear in his archival prints on Hahnemühle paper and salt prints are from his immediate surroundings. The fluidity of dictions makes his work even more cryptic. Naveed shows that while we may weave our perspectives on the subject matter, our feelings on simultaneity and how we perform as multi-faceted beings encompass an amalgamation of emotions with an antithetical response. The artist invites the viewer to tackle the nuances of the vernacular that his images provoke.

We live in an age where there are no stipulatedrules and merits through which we can gauge and evaluate a piece of contemporary art. In most visual meaning-making practices, the primal objective is to cultivate a mindscape, a fact—the visible appearance of hidden meaning.“The negative is the score”, said Ansel Adams, “but the print is the performance”; it’s the artist’s choice to choose between the two, though both expressions are independently phenomenal.

It is interesting to note that the first image ever chronicled, the heliographic View from the Window at Le Gras, 1827, was made using a technique that needed an exposure length of almost eight hours, allowing for the recording of only static objects. In 1924 at Cannes, Man Ray took a photograph as part of his attempts to create an imperfect image, dedicating it to high-performance vehicle enthusiast and artist friend Francis Picabia.

Man Ray saw right away that the blurriness and distortion in the picture were anything but flaws; instead, they had the artistic audacity to represent the contemporary concept of speed.Edward Steichen, photographer and former director of the Photography Department at the Museum of Modern Artsin New York, once combined the camera with the stroboscope, allowing “time itself to be chopped up into small bits and frozen; this way, he could photograph motion as a single image. Amusingly, Hiroshi Sugimoto, a celebrated Japanese photographer and architect who proclaims himselfa habitual self-interlocutor—walked into a cheap cinema in the East Village with a large-format camera in 1978. As soon as the movie started, he fixed the shutter at a wide-open aperture.

When the movie finished two hours later, he clicked the shutter closed. His vision exploded behind his eyes after developing the film, as the screen showed nothing but the silverish-white rectangle in a lit-uptheatrical setting. Whether one auto-biographically photographs oneself with a partner and a child for thirty years on every birthday as a lifelong theatrical performance and freezes time in a single frame or records every instance of a high-rise building construction sitewith a fixed lens, floor by floor, this imparts an objectionably fresh visual delight.

Faizan Naveed has always been interested in developing symbolically arcane imagery with some subtle moiré and few surprises. The work, Autumn Leaves, is a potent visual glee without any exuberant, dazzling and flamboyant colours offering more than just black and white photographs. Naveed’s prints in the exhibit seemto insulate the watermarks of the synchroneity and individuality of the morass. Ostensibly a silverish outlook ofthese exposures intrigues one to peel off layers to discover more beneath the surface, yet instigating the dialogue with theaide-mémoire itself—a successful blend of pictographs and ideographs of its kind.Anefficacious photograph must speak to one’s eyes through the eyes of the photographer, not undermining the sensibility of an individual spectator; nonetheless, once one knows what lies behind the surface, one doesn’t look at them the same way.

An excerpt from Understanding a Photograph, by English art critic, novelist, painter and poet,John Berger,(2013) explains this concept adequately: “Photography has no language of its own. One learns to read photographs as one learns to read footprints or cardiograms. The language in which photography deals is the language of events. All its references are external to itself. Hence the continuum.” In the 21stCentury, the definitions of inspiration and aesthetics, shapes and forms are very different from those in the bygone centuries. As a result, the modern docent will need to teach our new generations the fundamentals of what might seem like an evolved language. All that is required is in-depth knowledge and a willingness to explore the infinitumof light and space. Naveed appears to have the tendency to develop new contextual orientations. He is not afraid to create imperfect art. In his case, literary influences from either poetry or prose also work as an aspirational layer—transcribing visual poems.

While we have moved quickly from the physical darkroom to the digital lightroom, the techniquesof making a sandwich of negatives and double exposures still exist.All this was possible in the age of mechanical cameras; it is now done with the help of artificially intelligent software.The growing demands and desires for meaningful communication between purists and trans-disciplinarians in numerous fields encourage new visual language codifications and distortions. On the other hand, misunderstandings, analogies, and mistakes could give rise to new knowledge and ways of seeing.

The exhibition, Autumn Leaves, was held from October 1 to 9 at Rocca Colonna Castle, Rome, Italy.

The writer is an art/ design critic. He heads the Department of Visual Communication Design at Mariam Dawood School of Visual Arts and Design, Beaconhouse National University, Lahore

An aptitude for symmetric alternatives