Sentimentality: falsely emotional in a maudlin way; extravagant or affected feeling or emotion
Mawkishness makes bad art. But then again, that is a matter of opinion. The work of these three artists is notmawkish. In fact, it is all but sentimental. And that, in my opinion, makes their work fascinating. In my quest to find meaning within every visual stimulus available, I have often been disappointed by the overly mushy sentiments of the angsty. Also, I have been forced to keep an eye out for images that are compelling without the artifice of sentimentality. With this work, I feel like I need not worry about the maudlin depth of emotions.
The three artists have externalized what they have felt into images that one can relate to, without the discomfort of too much familiarity. We don’t want to live inside their skins, yet we do want to see what they see. We like mystery and we like to be amused. These artists do not disappoint. Most importantly, the work is relevant to the space and time they exist in which makes it more fun to look at and ponder on.
Atiph Khan and Sophiya Khwaja enjoy satire. We can see that they laugh at the misery inflicting our universe. Yet, it doesn’t appall us – this amusement. We laugh with them. Atiph draws from the so called history and culture of the region as well as the popular visuals of truck art and other kitschy iconography to reflect on what surrounds him. He is interested in the commonality of popular imagery as well as the news – which afflicts us daily and imposes a veil of threat on our lives. Laughing at it makes it digestible. His work also reflects on the current position of many people on the events in the country. We are frustrated and we laugh it off to survive in the chaos.
Sophiya Khwaja uses figures in humorous poses to make amusing statements on the current events in Pakistan. These figures are awkward and funny in the face of terror. Representing a particular culture within the country, the culture of the English-speaking, upper middle class Pakistanis, she brings out the attitude of laughing intelligently about the horror thrown in our faces daily. We can chuckle with her at the absurdity of it all.
Zaira Ahmed speaks about time changing familiar things. She draws upon an image she has seen for years of a building that dilapidated with time. This image perhaps means a change for the worse. What keeps her work within the realm of the “non-sentimental” is the essence of sensible observation of architecture. Her images represent a sort of unemotional vision of things falling apart. We need not shed tears for a building. But we sense impending doom or even loss.
All three artists speak of the transient nature of time and space. In this, they are screaming in a crowd louder than themselves. However, that does not take away from their work but gives it a place within the madness. In Bob Dylan’s timeless words:
There’s a battle outside and it is raging/It’ll soon shake your windows
and rattle your walls/For the times they are a-changin.
PS: Unfortunately, Atiph (or Atif) Khan felt that whatever I had written about the show was too “negative” and did not know who Bob Dylan was. My little opinion was discarded. However, I am posting it here because I can.