Obsession with the Naked Truth

Author: Hameed Zaman | Publication: The News | Dated: 20 Jan 1995

Perhaps Sumaya Durrani is one of the few female artists who is blatantly feminist, a woman of nerve who, it looks, has devoted her art so passionately to the ideology she believes in. In her dedicated approach, as expressed in her latest exhibition which opened recently at Chawkandi Art, the artist lodges her strong protest against the sexual harassment and exploitation in one way or the other.

She is using feminity both as a target and as a weapon. In her art Sumaya has brought in nudes as a shock device pointing angrily towards the presence of a nude woman on almost every label of consumer’s product due to deliberate connivance of the man made commercial aesthetics. Hal Foster, a social scientist calls it a “subversive sign.”

Sumaya has adopted Op Art devices to bring home the point of her premise. It is “commoditisation of woman” as Salima Hashmi puts it. Wit and anger co-exist for Sumaya and she knows that only way to really show anger. Left to women, is to be funny. She repeats the images like Andy Worhol: first to make the canvas spectacular and secondly disallowing the vision to go astray from the crux of the thesis. She is highlighting the theme through repetitions.

The accumulation of the same motif and the reproduction of the nudes in serial format is like hammering the point just to over-emphasise it. In a way in some of her paintings, she has de-centralised the centre in the sense that the over-dominating central motif goes bankrupt as a peripheral nudes exert their presence to complete the meaning. The placement of nude cut-outs is judicious. Repetition, instead of singularity fill the area where at every figure her logic in underlined, hammering the mind to learn it by heart.

Her printings are part of her social comments where she is trying to originate a dialogue with the viewers. “My dialogue is, above all, with the adult community because to me, art means something more than just the result of an aesthetic game,” she says. Her work has a resonance, a special optical effect, a bit decorative perhaps, but the canvasses vibrate with kinetic circling illusions, yet her obsession with the naked truth is interpreted through the female bodies which have maintained their centrality in her work. It’s a highly private and meditative art.

The concern and subjectivity of her work becomes autobiographical and introspective, She is exposing some public secrets of some clandestine happenings through a recurring text. In her mixed media paintings, Sumaya has used off-set printings and has utilised collages, at places randomly at other within a certain scheme became “life is random and inharmonious, as well as schematic and designed.”

For Sumaya, message is more important than medium “I cannot change the world, yet whatever I feel, it must be stated,” she insists.   Her cerebral strength goes side by side with her optical visualisation.