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Curated by Ambereen Karamant

Ex-ist* is the experience of following an unconscious road map of one’s everyday life, enveloped in various images. Our gaze has to wander over the surface of the images, feeling its way, following the complex path of the image’s structure on one hand and the observer’s intention on the other. The journey of being charged with just glancing at an image casts a magic spell on our imagination - emotions are stirred that put us under a trance - and the nature of the still image transforms it from a single image into moving scenes in our minds. The ostensible function of an image is just to inform, the magic on the surface itself does not bring change, but it is the power inside us that influences us to imagine better. This practice can evoke both positive and negative experiences, and can have a mysterious quality of enchantment, through a series of episodic events of looking at an image that binds together vision, hearing and imagination. 

Our lives are filtered through these magical images; they act as screens between man and the world, allowing human beings to ‘ex-ist’ . We are constantly living in the past which is documented on different electronic devices used in daily life, creating a visual assemblage of still and moving images; and the present is recorded and re-lived on screens. An abundance of these significant surfaces, images appearing on laptops, television, cellphones, and reflective surfaces helps us to construe the world “out there.” These are meant to render the world imaginable for us, by abstracting it, by reducing its four dimensional space-plus-time to a two-dimensional plane. The specific capacity to abstract planes from the space-time ‘out there’ and to re-project these abstractions back ‘out there’ might be called ‘imagination’. Aroosa Rana in her works explores this imaginative world of realities, which intentionally or unintentionally cross over readily on a regular basis in our daily lives. 

The participating artists have learnt to manipulate metal, plastic and glass (the camera) in a way that expresses their ideas: Amber Hammad searches her own identity in observing the other; Wardah Shabbir works on old black-andwhite European photographs, adorning them further with miniature style painting, creating a handmade visual statement which can be seen as miniatures of ‘posed reality’ of dispersed lives and preset perceptions. The picture may not be a whole reality, but there is always a presumption that something exists, or used to exist. 

Other artists have used images that have dispersed into our stagnant lives by consciously breaking through them, playing with the programmes of the camera, and entering the photographic universe by creating an image of a magic state of things whose symbol informs its receivers how to act in an improbable fashion. We are living in a world where we are surrounded by redundant images that create a standstill situation in our ever-moving lives. Sajjad Ahmed uses imagery from mundane life, digitally fabricating and dividing the assemblage into geometric blocks which appear as a one-shot photograph, while Muhammad Zeeshan studies the imagery of faith, myths and transcendental narratives, producing them in a laser scouring technique that examines the power and longevity of a particular class on imagery. 

These image-makers are asked to play against the camera and to place within the image something that is not in its programme. Farida Batool creates an illusion and three-dimensional depth in her lenticular print, photographing her walk in the city of Lahore that allows her to take a new walking partner each time the image is viewed. To understand a painting, the observer needs to understand the relation between the image and its transference by the painter. It is this process that needs to be decoded, and decoding process is the pass to the ‘world of magic’ one can experience through this exhibition. 

* Ex-ist is a term used by Vilem Flusser in his book ‘Towards a Philosophy of Photography,’ Reaktion Books Ltd, 1983, pp. 9. 


Farida Batool 

Farida Batool (b. 1970) a Lahore-based , internationally educated researcher, educationalist and established visual artist is best known for her lenticular prints, a process that gives her work a sense of dynamism, intrigue and metamorphosis through the three dimensional depth and illusion created. Her works are politically charged and are a representation of the socio-political climate of Pakistan. In the work exhibited at the Dhaka Art Summit 2014 she narrates ‘the story by taking you on a tour of Lahore’ by photographing herself walking in different parts of the city, capturing the expressions of strangers around her, the ever changing setting of the city influenced by political posters, walk-chalkings of religious rallies, providing a commentary to the once rich cultured, historical city engulfed by the menace of corruption and terrorism. 

Sajjad Ahmed

Sajjad Ahmed (b. 1982) is a Lahore-based visual artist, exploring concerns such as holding abstraction and representation within the same surface, by using imagery from mundane parts of life that resemble the composition of paintings from art history. For the exhibition Ex-ist, one of the prints is digitally fabricated by two realistic images overlapping each other, forming in totality a geometric abstraction. The coalescence of western and eastern images is found in his works; the exhibition includes a print of Nato soldiers dominated by Mughal miniature war painting, creating a visual assembly of time, space and events. The other exhibited work, with an aerial looking view of a flock of sheep and precisely divided geometric patterned fields, is an assemblage from various sources appearing as a one shot photograph bearing a moment of mundane looking activity. The work addresses the broader system of multiplicities of power, economics, globalisation and individual identities.

Amber Hammad 

Amber Hammad (b. 1981) Lahore-born and educated is best known for her works that are a commentary of her sociocultural environment; this is brought into her work by appropriating images from art history and the personification of characters. The idea of self and the other, gender ideologies and dress, and their relationship to the formation of identity, have always been part of the visual content of her work. For the new body of works for Ex-ist she has chosen her contemporaries’ works instead of images from art ‘history’. The search for her own identity is deeply rooted in observing ‘the other’ which ironically can only be perceived in her new works through her bias and personal view.

Aroosa Rana

Aroosa Rana (b. 1981) is a Lahore-based artist and educator trained as a painter who is currently working in digital media, photography and video. Her art is a constant query about ‘who is a viewer and who is being viewed’ and the position of the viewer. Being surrounded by an abundance of still and moving images - captured by cameras, seen on television, laptops, cell phone screens as well as reflective surfaces of many other objects simulate visual experiences; the mirage of so many realities exists all at the same time. The exhibited works for Ex-ist document these realities which, intentionally or unintentionally, cross over readily and regularly in our daily lives. 

Wardah Shabbir 

Wardah Shabbir (b. 1987) Lahore-born and educated, absorbs and translates what she sees and experiences within her environment into her ‘own language’ mostly using a traditional miniature painting technique. Her works can be described as surreal; she successfully draws from her imagination to create fantastical beings that only exist in her mind. In her new works for Ex-ist, she has worked on the surfaces of 19th century European photographs, connecting them with miniatures being produced in the subcontinent simultaneously. These hand-made visual statements give a glimpse of the East’s perception of the West, an attempt at reconciling the orient-occident polarities that exist in our minds. 

Muhammad Zeeshan 

Muhammad Zeeshan (b. 1980) raised in Mirpurkhas, living in Karachi, worked as a cinema board painter before he was trained as a miniature painter in Lahore. Still developing his practice, he now employs found images and videos from popular culture (posters, cable TV and magazines) and iconic ‘high’ art. At times he rephotographs the images with different lenses to create various effects, drawing out physical and thematic aspects that interest him. For Ex-ist, he combines faith, myths and transcendental narratives with modern laser scouring techniques examining the power and longevity of a particular class of imagery.

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