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Indepth Arts News:

"THE SKIN SHE WEARS: First Solo Exhibition in Europe for Pakistani Artist"
2008-09-24 until 2008-10-25
Rossi and Rossi
London, , UK United Kingdom

Rossi and Rossi are delighted to be staging the first solo exhibition in Europe of work by Naiza H. Khan, an acclaimed Pakistani artist who lives and works in Karachi and whose work has been exhibited to much acclaim there as well as in Dubai, Hong Kong, Islamabad, Mumbai and New York. The Skin She Wears will comprise some 15 recent sculptures and drawings and will take place at 16 Clifford Street, London W1, from 24 September to 25 October 2008. For over a decade Naiza Khan has focused on a thematic meditation on the female body and she says that The Skin She Wears began as a strategy to explore the emotional content of the body through attire. Lingerie, chastity belts, straitjackets and other objects play the stage.

The clothes locate the body more explicitly and what it confronts between personal and political spaces. They also create multiple identities or personae. The armour pieces began with drawings of lingerie and specifically a ‘bullet-proof vest’ that called to be made in metal rather than drawn. Over the last two years, objects have developed such as the ‘armour-skirt’ that is at the same time flirtatious and oppressive. These objects find a place between war and love, and are ambiguous in their position of aggression and seduction.

Among the first objects Naiza Khan made are two galvanised steel pieces, Armour-lingerie IV and Armour-lingerie V, both available in editions of three. Naiza says of these works: “I felt at that time (2007) it was important to consider the body through attire, but that the duality of it remained within the work somehow – part clothing, part body. Also, coincidentally, at this time (Feburary 2007), the issue of the Red Mosque (Lal Masjid) had flared up in Islamabad where we saw for the first time women in Hijab taking a very strident and aggressive role in protecting their religious beliefs. I wanted to create my own army in response to this social phenomenon.”

Amongst the drawings, Armour I, 2007, charcoal on paper, is the first in a series of drawings that have developed as a tool for the artist’s imagination. Naiza says: “I see these pieces of attire become more hybrid and illusionary as I draw them – something between real and fictitious – a sort of wardrobe that often reflects contradictory messages.”

Naiza’s recent installation at ArtDubai 2008 caused quite a stir. Entitled The Crossing, it was created for the Pakistani Pavilion and comprised a wooden boat, galvanised steel armour pieces, fabric and leather. The artist explained: “We live in the year 1429 Zil-Hajj. In the year 1429 AD, Joan of Arc led the French army to victory in the Siege of Orléans. She was a supernatural phenomenon. And so, in Pakistan we seek Paradise and wait to be led. The armour pieces float between the different time zones that we inhabit within this country. I am not sure if they are about the future or the past. They are like skins off the body that we shed or embrace as we negotiate The Crossing.”

The London exhibition will include a work entitled Pearl Divers, 2008. This watercolour is described by the artist as “important as it brought together the emotional content that I was searching for whilst working on the large installation of The Crossing. I realised what the installation was about and why I was making it. The title came about because Utamaro’s Pearl Divers has always fascinated me, in the way that the women are shown, in such an un-Japanese state of undress! So the title came about, as a search and a journey.”

The charcoal, conté and acrylic work Heavenly Ornaments III dates from 2005 and is part of a triptych expressing Naiza’s personal and political thoughts gleaned from ‘Heavenly Ornaments’, one of the best-known works by the renowned Indian Muslim scholar and mystic (Sufi), Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanawi, and one which has become a handbook for leading an Islamic life in the Muslim household.

Naiza H. Khan
the wardrobe
charcoal, conte and acrylic on Fabriano paper
150 x 122 cm – 59 x 48 in

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