SAUSAN SAULAT Writer Lisa Farjam in her foreword in ‘Unveiled: New Art from the Middle East- The Saatchi Gallery Exhibition Catalogue’, aptly states that the Middle East is too often seen with a narrow lens of terrorism and oppression and as a humorless, dangerous more than distorting the history of cultural activities. ‘The richness of Middle Eastern art and culture which was until that point ignored suddenly came to the forefront after 9/ 11’ says she. One’s identity is multi layered and hybrid - not at all stagnant, with multiple influences shaping it. Cultural pigeonholing as such is gene-ralized and inaccurate as no person’s identity can be reduced to his origin, as that
A still from To love is to let go? Video, 2012
is simply one dimension of his or her being. My work is informed by the perception of my home country of Pakistan and the Muslim world at large and its image in the eyes of the West. The explorations act as vehicles for me to conceptually articulate and legitimize my own presence as an Eastern artist in the Western diaspora. The pieces each flirt with notions of identity, orientalism and conceptions of the other, particularly with regard to women artists. Metaphors for tradition, gender, culture, sexuality, politics, violence and religion, all form my visual and theoretical oeuvre. The investigation is an attempt to chronicle my own two and a half year experience of being away
from home and examine the many artists and theorists who have shaped my understanding of the Eastern dialogue in a predominantly Western context. Although the process and outcome is fairly interdisciplinary, the two-dimensional work is heavily ornamental drawing from Arab and South Asian influences. This use of pattern not only lends itself to ideas of tradition owing to the relationship between geometry, calligraphy and its symbolism in Eastern art and architecture but also comments on the Western understanding of it, courtesy of it’s Islamic affiliation.