Conceptual art on show

March 24, 2024

A three-week art residency recently culminated in an exhibition that was more of a “response to the timeless layout of the residency venue”

Ayesha Zulfiqar’s Untitled on wood. — Photo: Supplied
Ayesha Zulfiqar’s Untitled on wood. — Photo: Supplied


arly this year, Power of Art, mentored by Quddus Mirza in collaboration with Articulate Studios and HQ Art Foundation, initiated an art residency that brought together six visual artists and a mentor for three weeks. The residency raised ideas of power and influence as a means of creation, revisiting their practice through non-academic structures. The outcome, in the form of an exhibition, was a response to the timeless layout of the residency venue — Articulate Studios, in Shalamar Town — and creation within the arrangement and conversations.

Ayesha Zulfiqar staged a room within a room, documenting the corners and crevices of the spaces and rebuilding them as site-specific installation. The layout of white pristine walls unfolding and opening into other walls triggered an otherworldly experience, a transcendence of a space through eras, as one contemplated its placement within the vintage floor, doors and windows. Her work rather than representing performed something in the here and now, instead of merely mapping it from there and then. In an act of negotiating the social boundaries of the human body and readjusting the viewership, she provided no permanent object or passive spectatorship. In fact, her work negated the logic of art as a commodity, questioning the labour of the artist and the leisure of the spectator by virtue of its method of fabrication.

Sol Lewitt, an American artist, and the author of Paragraphs on Conceptual Art, states: “Conceptual art is not necessarily logical. The logic of a piece or series of pieces is a device that is used at times only to be ruined. Logic may be used to camouflage the real intent of the artist, to lull the viewer into the belief that he understands the work, or to infer a paradoxical situation.’’ Artists often stage the tension between intention and intent by mimicking the logic of labour into mental realms. The plan of the antiquated building resonated with the work of another artist participating in the residency, Axel Lucas. Fabricating the accent of a floor within a floor, he intentionally reproduced the herringbone pattern with uneven and brittle bricks.

Lucas’s decision to overlay local tile work with roman brick pattern marked a stark contrast of eras and cultures within one room. By replacing manmade bricks with machine-produced exercise book pads, he bridged ideas around medium, materiality, socialism and class. His work held much unanticipated innocence with regard to its edifice where something almost playful ceases to exist amidst the construction of consceptual art.

Haider Ali Naqvi’s Headless Nails, in charcoal, water and rust on paper.— Photo: Supplied
Haider Ali Naqvi’s Headless Nails, in charcoal, water and rust on paper.— Photo: Supplied


The value we attach to veneration in remembering our loved ones, whether absent or deceased, serves as a cult for the validity given to the images. The significance of documenting someone else’s chronicle stretches the melancholic to unknown paradigms. Anusha Khalid’s video projection could have been viewed as a novel written by a troubled writer whose time stamps were uneven like one’s memory and what was written was momentarily relevant. We all exist as distinctive versions in the recollection of the ones who have crossed our path, and we are transformed into ghosts, in love as well as in hate.

To be captured by a mechanical lens is as far as we can exist in the mind of the witness as a timeless subject. Khalid’s video was peculiar and mysterious but a seamless and beguiling whole.

The power of words was independently much greater for Hamid Ali Hanbhi. His painted imagery of popular cinema with subtitles marked the power of entertainment camouflaged in hypocrisy, violence and mockery.

Hanbhi’s critique on flawed social structures slipped through the ideas of canonicity, where the maker relived the narrative several times as he painted.

As intimate as still life, the work of Haider Ali Naqvi produced a series of greyscale graphite drawings that resonated with documenting life at the Articulate Residency. Naqvi’s clinical inquiry and approach produced mechanical rendering of objects which are part of our surroundings, hence ignored. The drawings bared hybridity of X-ray and fossil-like findings, capsuling information for time to come.

On similar understanding, Yaseen Khan’s elaborate work was seen documenting the flora that encapsulated the residency during his time there. Khan’s work was minimal in its ideation but dense in its progression. His surfaces revealed credible artistic knowledge where his making could mislead the viewer from paintings to digital prints.

The layout explored by the artists encapsulated the residency as a bearer of its truth providing unwavering commitment towards the beginning of a promising dialogue.

Through acknowledging the limitations of critical discourse, we require new informational models for understanding, reading and de-layering contemporary art-making. Residencies are crucial and non-political in their nature and can accommodate intrinsic discussions and debates that shape the process of production. Curatorial intelligence and artistic inventions can only be performed and employed if we are challenging distinct educational eco-systems of art in the line of thinking.

The writer is an art curator and a visual artist based in Lahore. She can be reached at

Conceptual art on show