Published on the Saffronart Blog on October 5 2013.
London: Five artists from different parts of the world unite to present Heritage Reinvented at the Tryon St. Gallery in London. In this exhibition, while drawing from their own individual socio-cultural peculiarity, they contest, challenge and transform the imagery and concepts normally associated with their own culture.
The five artists are the Pakistani Ali Kazim, the New Zealander Brett Graham, the English Tom Hunter, the Ecuadorian Oscar Santillan and the Korean Meekyoung Shin. Though their standpoints are varied, their desire to amalgamate their socio-cultural past in order to speak to the present remains a constant in all their works. The artists attempt to create a new personal vocabulary through which they examine and revisit their heritage and often their own identity.
Ali Kazim originally trained as a miniature painter, but started his career as a circus-hoarding painter in the small town of Pattoki, Pakistan. His paintings, principally of lone masculine figures, have a multilayered tactility on account of many layers of watercolour pigments on textured paper, which imparts his work with a low relief quality.
On display is a new series of work, where Kazim uses the framework of the South Asian visual culture, but he relativizes it. He is influenced by the miniature style techniques, which in the Mughal period were used to symbolize official rank, wealth and status. However, he strips away the colorful splendor of the miniatures to reveal a quiet monochromatic introspection, and thus transforms the long-standing miniature tradition of painting. Similarly Kazim draws from the Bengal school’s wash technique as can be seen in his self-portrait, where he uses over 20 washes of pigment to achieve the desired effect. His portrait is meditative, melancholic and remains firmly rooted in its past, while examining the present.
In his previous works he used tracing paper in order to subdue the colours further, thus giving his portraits more psychological significance. Regarding this, Kazim clarifies, “I feel that the thematic concerns of the work are strengthened greatly through a careful selection and use of materials. They help me explore the human body in a more expressive way.”
In a similar manner, the other artists confront the stereotypes normally associated with their culture. Brett Graham is of European and Maori descent and his work depicts the amalgamation between Western modernism and indigenous spirituality. He shows the dichotomy of his dual heritage by juxtaposing modern instruments of warfare with traditional Maori designs. These colonial power symbols were considered to be spiritual symbols by the indigenous Maori. Graham’s work explores the effects of European colonialism on the indigenous Oceanic population.
Tom Hunter’s photographs reposition the composition and symbolism of European and American masterworks. In his work After the Dragon, Hunter draws stylistically and symbolically from Pre Raphaelite artist Edward Burne-Jones’s painting Pan and Psyche (1872-1874). Part of his Life and Death in Hackney series, Hunter contemporizes Psyche and Pan, making them subcultural inhabitants set in the landscape of post-industrial urban decay. By plugging the legacy of the past into the context of the present, his work creates a dialogic exchange between the two binaries.
The show is on view from 3rd October to the 22nd November 2013.
For more information about the exhibition, please click here.