Same of the Rose
Quddus Mirza is an artist,
art critic and curator based in Lahore,
SAME OF THE ROSE
It would be interesting to note the time, need and stage in the human history, when a flower was transported from the botanical field to the realm of art, imagination and love. Today, rose, in its essence a flower on a bush like many other species, has acquired multiple meanings, usage and significance, so when we look at the rose, we envisage a whole range of literature, ideas and visuals attached to this piece of vegetation. .
Rose is related to beauty, love and delicacy. Yet it also contains the concept/potential of decay, since a rose, regardless whether blossoming on the bush or arranged in a vase, is bond to wilt with the passage of time. Needless to say, that thorns growing with its stem, hold the possibility of a dangerous encounter (a scenario that is masterfully depicted by Gabriel Garcia Marquez in his short story Your Trail of Blood in the Snow).
Hence a rose, despite of it being a symbol of beauty, love and attraction, comprises of certain contradictions. A subject that is dealt with by Asmaa Hashmi in her new art pieces. In her recent works on paper, she addresses this conflicting situation, and double notions of rose (beauty and danger) through various visuals and pictorial strategies. Her etchings, multi media prints, digital prints and constructions allude to the concept of beauty and other ideas – quite different, yet related to it.
If the rose stands for the symbol of beauty, then this element is explored with its other connotations and context. A prominent motif in Hashmi’s work is the shape of a box. In several prints box appears as a latent motif underneath the form of flower, while at some places, etching prints are composed and constructed as actual boxes.
On these boxes as well as in her prints, one comes across the images of quilt, impressions of bar code and sensitive rendering of petals and leaves. All of this formulate a narrative that is personal, because Asmaa has been interested in portraying various elements of nature since her studies at NCA (1981-1986), but during that period and in the works executed after, the nature is not a means to describe botanical details or variations of colour and texture; instead it is converted into something else – something extra.
Something that lies beyond mere appearances is fully explored in her new works. Hashmi’s attempt to merge nature and culture surfaces in numerous ways. But it is the quilt, composed of tiny petal like pieces of fabric, which unites the two areas of human involvement. Of maintaining the relationship (and not necessarily a balance) between nature and man made. Even though in her work, the two parts of our reality exist side by side, but artist seems to weave a specific set of meanings in/through these works.
These meanings – indicated through a number of sensitive, sensuous and subtle surfaces deal with the commoditisation of beauty. It can also be seen as comment on society, which preserves, protects and presents the notion of prettiness like a marketable item. During our festivals and special days (for instance Valentine Day) the image of beauty is sold as a hot product (along with the concept of love). Flowers, which are grown – primarily for the pleasure of one’s eyes and sense of smell – are distributed like goods, which are sold and bought so one can express one’s deep, personal and intimate emotion with the help of these (roses purchased from a stall, or a greeting card picked at a bookshop).
Perhaps the changing fabric of society, by turning one’s private sentiments, feelings and idea of beauty into a shopping endeavour/adventure concerns the artist, who juxtaposes the roses (made like a product) with the bar code at the bottom of the imagery in several of her works. However Asmaa, with her strong and sensible position on these issues, approach her work in a seductive manner. Both her mixed media prints and digital works delineate the artist’s pleasure in producing these works. Lines drawn on the prints, layers of silk screens and sharp cuts on the etching plates reveal a hand that takes a great delight in mark making. Her lines and even the process of stitching pieces of cloth in the pattern of a quilt, indicate that the artist is fascinated with the possibility and potential of fabricating a world through her tools and medium.
This fascination with the act of image making makes the work of Asmaa Hashmi, with its hidden messages and apparent references, a delightful experience for the eyes.
What more do you need, any way?
Quddus Mirza 2009
Quddus Mirza is an artist, art critic and curator based In Lahore, Pakistan