Back To Roots

DATED: 12 SEPT 1997

Samina Mansuris work was exhibited at the Chawkandi Art Gallery recently. Her development as an artist has undergone varied stages from emphasising the female head juxtapositioned with pomegranates, custard apples and other botanical diagrams (1983, Ziggurat gallery) to her recent culmination of a four year sojourn with sensuous imagery of fleurs du mal and their exotic roots. She studied at the New York School of Drawing, Printing and, Sculpture and the Pratt Institute, where she earned a BFA in graphic design.

Her 23 works exhibited were done over a span of four years and have also been exhibited in Europe (Huddersfield are gallery, etc.). “Saminas art is a collection of back breaking work on canvases where she has attempted not to please the viewer in any way. She has not compromised her work by selling it periodically. Those who only buy big names must recognise that she has been around for a while. But she has worked quietly,” explains Mrs Hussain, the gallerys curator. Interestingly, this is an absolutely rare collection in terms of imagery and subject.

Samina Mansuri returned to Pakistan seven years ago during which she experienced a slow progression in her art. This is evident in her collection, where she paints thorns and roots in a multitude of shapes, positions and colours. Her work has never lacked botanical forms. The organic palette comprises of browns, vermilion and green to create mangled mazes of dead, dried roots. Roots knotted like an old mans face in a protective shell-like stance or the insertion of flowering petals.

ln Red II (1995) is a cluster of blood-stained thorns which allows a pipe-like root to run through them. The diversity is aesthetic, but even cruel at times, “Thorns have specific symbolism. They could be painful. Roots too could be cruel because they dig into the earth or could be nurturing for the entire plant,” says the artist. She maintains that all her work is interlinked. Her art deals with gender politics but is not accusing like feminist art. Roots and Thorns (1995) is an initial study of her thematic passion with the-pulled-out root end embodied in a thorny mass.

In Homage to J.P. III (1995), she uses colour in a frenzied application. However, these are not bright hues but subdued reds, whites and blues. Julianne Pagano, a mentor and fellow artist from New York, also painted and exhibited the hibiscus in 1993 with Samina at the Chawkandi Art Gallery. Piercing Red (1995) is part of the earlier work where her clarity of subject is amazingly intact. She may be mistaken for a botanist with her accurate rendition of white speckled roots caught up in an erotic pose amidst brownish thorns. She does not use red on the canvas but in her title. It is her imagery of pain and hurt that merges.

Autumn Fire (1994) is a juxtapositioning of two large canvases which show roots dribbling lighter shades with orangish-brown soil-like colours. This joint work shows rain-like marks in dimmer green on the bottom-end of the second canvas where the roots are painted almost flower-like.

Saminas work done in 1997 includes Sea Change where the canvas is altered to appear almost diamond shaped. The image observed may probably originate from botanical life underwater with the use of shades of pink and yellow spindles twining and winding upwards.

Pyramid of Tongues (1997) shows thorns resembling almost snake-vines, curvaceous heads with the sprouting of a huge flower. This is not an O Keefe flower but is ambivalently androgynous. Stranger imagery is exhibited with relief work on wood, banksias flowers from, Australia on shaped wood in dark shades, thorns in cast aluminium and meticulous studies in charcoal. The artists fascination for a single botanical image is displayed using varying mediums and an interplay of light and dark colours. Her earlier works appear slightly turbulent and ugly with a tinge of aggression and a desire to break through the medium. However, her latter works reveal a sense of calm. The pain is gradually diminishing.

Samina Mansuris potent cocktail of violent and erotic art is her dialogue with the viewer about a womans space and human status; be it sexual, political or psychological.