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By Nimra Khan | 6/24/2018 12:00:00 AM
A recent show at the Koel Gallery, Maidaan, curated by artist Nurayah Sheikh Nabi, brings together nine emerging artists `showcasing trends and direction of the thought processes guiding younger visual practitioners in their current spaces`. Maidaan translated as an arena or congregation ground for the public is embodied by the gallery itself as a space for these young talents to initiate their practices in front of a receptive gathering. The works that emerge are presented through an exciting array of visual languages, and even the traditional medium of painting is interestingly handled.

The credit goes to the curator for the fluidity of display. It is instantly striking how the artworks interact with each other and sit harmoniously within the space.

The selection of works contributes to this and facilitates the emergence of a trend of sorts an emphasis on object and space, through which human emotions, ideas, phenomena and psyche are reified, but with the conscious removal of the human itself.

The only exception is perhaps Noor Butt, whose reflections on self-perception and portrayal utilise the image of her own face to a great effect. The eerie floating faces projected on to blank 3D heads at once objectify the person, and brings the object to life. Presented execution style, the faces are disembodied and depersonalised, hanging as ghostly iterations of the self.

Ameerah Shoaib Motiwala, Sanaan Khalid Shamsi, Sanya Hussain and Shanza Raza Khan present spatial explorations through their paintings, with purposeful exclusion of the inhabitants to objectively critique and comment on society. In Motiwala`s works, the human presence is felt through subtle gestures of the inanimate objects she uses as perhaps placeholders for the characters she is referencing, yet hiding from view.

Khan`s extensive row of dramatic postcard-sized paintings comment on the rampant violence in society and our subsequent desensitisation to it due to constant onslaught in the media. The auratic paintings hold a strange beauty, depicting stills from various movie scenes, which register almost as instances of déjà vu; familiar yet nonspecific enough to evade recognition which perhaps serves her narrative.

Zainab Abdul Hussain, Sakina Ali, Maha Minhaj, and Muhammad Idris Runija focus on objects to resolve human emotion or embody the human spirit. Ali uses a briefcase full of personal effects belonging to her grandfather to recreate not only his memory, but an embodiment of him. The photographs and letters fused on to the wooden tabletops are layered into its surface to become a part of it.

This not only hints at the omnipresence of a deceased loved one permeating every aspect of everyday life, but also attempts to deeply etch these memories for the sake of remembrance. As the artist was too young to retain memories of him, these objects form a connection to the man; inanimate objects take on a persona which he is allowed to live through.

Minhaj and Runija both carry different aspects of Ali`s work within their own.

Minhaj also deals with memories, however, those of darker predisposition.

Her process negotiates between drawing and sculpture, casting silhouettes of objects in wrapped paper, drawing over it to lift their impressions. Here she seems to dismantle it instead, investigating the efficacy of processes of erasure for unsavoury recollections. Runija plays with objects and toys, creating kinetic sculptures with kettles and funnels that spill paint and create artworks of their own. In a way, these `machines` replace the human completely, even the artist himself, creating gestural paintings in his stead.

This push and pull between animate and inanimate, human and non-human, is explored and investigated throughout each work. The tensions between object, space and human beings gives the works an exciting edge.

`Maidaan` is being displayed at the Koel Gallery from June 4 till June 30, 2018