The Life of an Image: A solo show by Natasha Malik at Khaas Gallery 

The Life of an Image curated by Zishan Afzal Khan, showcasing works by Natasha Malik at Khaas Gallery, Islamabad opened its doors on 10th December. Natasha’s artworks were inviting to the viewers as the intricacy and attention to detail draws you in, wanting to get close to see every stroke and detail. Natasha Malik is an artist and founder of ‘The Creative Process’, an artistic platform working across the intersections of site-specific curatorial projects and activism from a feminist point of view. Malik’s recent work is a study of objects from personal archives, where she reconstructs memories, dreams, sights and sensations as a way of reconciling with loss. 

Currently based in Islamabad itself, Natasha Malik’s multi-media series examines the process, challenges and aftermath of art making, her visual language depicts themes that are personal to her but also resonate with the larger audience, especially those linked to the art world. 

A piece of work that attracts one’s attention as soon as you walk in is The Morning Flower. This exquisite piece, a magenta iris flower encased in a skeletal form illuminates quietly in the corner. Based on one of her own two dimensional painting, this acrylic and neon light structure, suspended mid-air holds the viewers gaze from all angles. Circling around this piece, I felt like a body encasing this sculpture, similar to the ribcage protecting the flower. In conversation with Malik, she raised an interesting aspect regarding the work: “There’s something about neon lighting that draws people in, normally we’re repulsed by anything that reminds us of loss and death”. That sounds about right, since I was immediately drawn to it like moth to a flame.

As I walked around admiring the works, Les Couleurs really caught my attention. Visually sophisticated with such degree of detail and tonal variation, this artwork based on the colour wheel highlights the artist’s fascination towards how artists and scientists have visualised the colour wheel historically. Additionally, Phantom Pain has the dexterity and complexity of a seasoned miniature artist, while A Swim Through Time, Concluded has the mastery over watercolours. Just goes to show that Malik is quite skilled in her expressive use of different mediums.

All of the works on display are stunning however the artist’s, curator’s and my personal favourite Artscape has to be the highlightTo be fair, I wasn’t the only one at the show who kept coming back to this work. Every time, I found myself admiring another aspect of this work. Whether it be the box that contained this masterpiece, or the design of every single element, or the manual that came with it! This engaging piece of work goes beyond our traditional understanding of art, it is in fact a four player board game. The players consist of the artist, the gallerist, the critic and the collector, all who humorously come together and create an experience that sums up the the relationships of one to the other. The game is playful yet suggestive, critical of concepts each of those players would encounter in the real world. Artscape is lighthearted but an extensive insight into how the art world works. The process of making, the affiliation of the artist to the institutions and the market. Through discussions, choices and various dilemmas, each player is working his/her way to success, which of course is aided by monetary exchanges. It was no surprise to see several young art students interacting with the game and thoroughly enjoying it. As the curator mentioned, “The game had to be played over and over again for all the rules and characters to work perfectly”. 

Lastly, Malik’s sole installation, A Portrait of a Procrastinating Artist, was a work consisting of a TV set upon a stool showing a video on a loop. Said video displayed a blue-hued goldfish swimming against colourful TV static – an ode to what goes on inside the mind of an artist, perhaps? Being an artist myself, I have to say it seems quite fitting and Malik visualised it with comedic accuracy! 

Kudos to Khaas Gallery and Natasha Malik for putting up such a beautiful and highly engaging exhibition. The show continues till 18th December so if you’re in Islamabad, don’t forget to check it out! 

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