‘Heartbreak Hotel’: an exhibition on display at Dominion Gallery, Lahore from 1 July to 29 July 2022, curated by ‘Bibi H. Arbab’. It discusses the age-old problem of heartbreak and the loneliness that comes as a by-product. Featuring seven impressive artists with diverse practices, named Ayesha Rumi, Hadia Moiz, Hoor Imad Sherpao, Mahr Lak, Rabia Ali, Samiya Mahir Sheikh and Sumbal Sultana.
The curatorial note states “artists were asked to unburden the emotional load by expressing it” and undoubtedly express, they did.
Rumi’s work tackles the collective heartbreak we all have been dealing with since we first got colonized. The visual clutter in her work seems to be manifesting all the clutter we have accumulated which includes but is not limited to, identity crisis, intellectual slavery and a deep rooted insecurity related to owning our culture. Our dresses, our language and our very fiber of being get cocktailed into a bewildered expression of self where one can’t seem to find the core of what makes us who we really are, and if you go and stand in front of Rumi’s work that is the emotional response it extracts from you and that’s what makes her work a success.
Hadia Moiz’s work titled “the Ajanta Caves” is a visual masterpiece, where she plays with the viewer’ eyes and mind at the same time. For me what makes the work such a fun experience is the fact that it seems to be replicating but at the same time it is reinventing, it deconstructs and then builds a whole image which pays homage to undoubtedly one of the most phenomenal occurrences in art and human history.
Hoor Imad Sherpao
Sherpao’s beautiful and engaging installation is a direct dive into the artist’s own mind. It is said that time heals all, but if we look at its movement, time seems to be the biggest culprit in perpetuating heartbreak. In her own words, the characters and environments she has imagined or pieced together from her subconscious rely on personal memory. Now the very idea of a memory works because time exists, the illusion of a linear time creates the illusions of a linear past, present and future. The outstanding installation which houses environments which further houses characters are called moments in time but as time never stops, the work has to be constantly in movement as well. This brilliant symbolism utilized by the artist perfectly sums up our own condition to us. Man is a slave either to the constructs of time or to the constructs of self or meaning or everything. The artist’s works create an interpolation of perceived and subconscious reality, the pieces follow form and yet it is undefined and unconstricted by the conventional notions of delineation such as borders. The animation utilizes lights in an interesting way whereby the lights depict and encapsulate emotions within the time and space of a heartbreak.
Mahr’s sensitive yet thought provoking paintings take us back to the age-old debate between nature and nurture. We call nature “mother nature” because a mother is naturally expected to be nurturing but if we look at the real world it is a different story altogether. Humans, as much as they like to conform, are unique, their minds are separate universes connected only by fate and therefore their experiences are vastly different from what they are led to believe in. Lak’s art shows us what it really takes to be vulnerable and creative in the face of heartbreak or life as we like to call it.
Love Button by Rabia Ali explores the dynamic movement between nostalgia and flowing emotions of a heartbreak, it has the vivid yellow of jubilance and the bleeding contours of red. The diversity of features pertaining to texture within the work, depicts the array of feelings one has to go through while going through a heartbreak.
Samiya Mahir Sheikh
Samiya’s “Raya” is a brilliant dig at the expression, crazy cat lady, the notion being that a series of unfortunate heartbreaks leads to the accumulation of cats around the lady. The work depicts inaction at several levels and within the layers of movement yet, the inordinate scowl on the woman’s face is incomplete and yet it correlates the grouchy expressions all the cats have. The cats are a rendition of human interactions perhaps, equally filled with the ornery inaction, and the nonchalant chatoyant behavior the artist has observed through these interactions. The relationship of the subject with the cats is also a clever depiction of dysfunctional codependency where the cats are all snuggled up in her hair and yet they give off an utterly ungrateful vibe.
Sumbal Sultana depicts Dysfunctional love that can be like a broken record, and perhaps an imitation cassette is quite an allegorical depiction of a heartbreak. The magnetic tape in a cassette is akin to the Folie a Deux, the love that is, this madness is shared by two spools, as long as they spin in the same direction, the madness works out a melodic output but the moment their movement is in conflict, you get either a muddled muck or a snapped tape.