A New Root


Samina Mansuris art draws you into a vortex of visual stimuli, with its menacing thorns, roots – jumbled, mangled and truncated – and the phallic gray blue flower which serves as a symbol of patriarchy, densely covered with oyster-like cavities.

Three canvases have been devoted to this mysterious flower, embellished with hard unyielding shells and a soft pulsating interior. The painting on board, with contours cut to follow the floral form, suggests new formalistic possibilities.

From the time easel painting followed frescoes and cloth paintings, relief almost left the repertoire of the Muslim artists. One can truly understand the magnitude of the loss after looking at the exquisite pieta dura at the Taj Mahal and Agra Fort, Today, perhaps tazia remains the only popular three-dimensional work.

Saminas bold foray in this direction will remind painters of the choices available to them outside the discipline of sculpture. The exhibition also includes an aluminium cast and many works that combine painted images and monochrome relief.

The square canvas in which the corner is treated as the apex seems less successful as the painters com- positional skills, bound by the memory of a conventional square canvas, have yet to come to terms with the experimental space.

The sterility of the recent images is in sharp contrast to the sensuous lushness of the fecund ripe fruit of Saminas first show. Custard apple. Pomegranate, bursting seed pods suggested optimism, a faith, a lifeline to natures bounty. The new paintings lend a foreboding air to Chawkandi Art as overwhelming plant life, stripped of its refreshing green, becomes the metaphor of a distressing social reality. The harsh bare forms of a tangle of roots with a spiky growth and amputated tendrils awash with the red of sacrificial blood, offer little emotional or spiritual solace.

These roots no longer seem to be alive – like a society, after its initial productive thrust under a progressive ideology settles into a cyclic pattern of consumption and corruption.

The positive energies of progress seem to have been sucked into a frenzy of self-feeding. The turgid healthy roots look cannibalistic: instead of reaching into mother earth for sustenance, they survive by themselves. The lone red flower that blooms in Saminas barren landscape neither has the cheerful innocence of a wildflower, nor the vulnerability of a tropical bloom. It is reminiscent of a hardier hybrid mutation that needs to survive in an inhospitable environment.

The eerie blue that lights the canvas in Saminas more recent paintings too reminds one of a strange finality, close to the other-worldliness of a Martian sunset.

The unsettling experience of being in Samina Mansuris intense emotional and spiritual wasteland offers the promise of at truthful, individualistic statement, as she interprets for us the pain in our world.