Disparate Voices


Naiza Khan shows at Chawkandi art her mixed-media work titled Voices Merge. The exhibition incorporates the strong drawing elements of her earlier figurative work, as well as new material. Henna Hands are lifesize works done directly on the studio and gallery walls, using the outlines of the female figure filled with stencilled henna hands. An exploration of materials like latex has resulted in smaller 8″ x 8″ wooden squares, with text submerged underneath the latex.

The title Voices Merge is problematic; whether the resonance of voice comes from the text the drawn imagery on the material (latex, organza etc), there really does not seem to be a merging.

A multi-media approach is usually relevant in understanding a subject from more than one perspective. At some point, though, the multiplicity of media must form a cohesive voice. However, the use of parallel levels of thought, expressed by the use of different media in Naizas case, appear fragmented.

Drawings in conte and in charcoal on paper with single figures demonstrate Naizas strong sense of control over line, and a spontaneous gestural expression. Yet, as soon as one turns around, the latex and henna works fight for attention. The latter which have been drawn by the artist within the gallery space for this specific exhibition, no doubt bring immediacy into the gallery space. The relevance of the studio experience, or the artists process, especially in work that is unconventional, invites investigation. This makes for a welcome change, since local art galleries, without any exception, have regularly produced the most static exhibition environment.

Every medium unfolds its unique vocabulary. But at what point does an artist tame the material to make it a part of his or her individual expression? The use of stencilled henna hands, for example, seems stereotypical – such imagery appears like a perfect slice of this culture. There would undoubtedly be a demand for such work in the west. The question is, who is the artists audience? Similar henna hands painted on gessoced panels were shown at the Bruneii Gallery in London this year. In all probability, the same work was read differently, as the audience and the cultural context changed. Naiza however, trashes the suggestion that the work is ethnic, contending in fact that the last thing she wants is for people to think that she has “become all indigenous” by using Urdu text and henna.

The latex on wood stems out of Naizas work titled Nine Parts of Desire, shown at the Alliance Francaise, earlier this year. Wooden squares that read Each piece carrying a different part of her body. Havent you ever wanted to, etc are sealed and submerged under layers of latex poured over them. They are, the artist says, meant to be like “muffled sounds.” These words are not meant to be the titles of the works, but rather “are” the works, This particular direction at least, could perhaps evolve into more resolved work.