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Emperor's New Clothes

Dress, Politics and Identity in Contemporary Pakistan

June 25 - September 19, 2009

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Risham Syed, Tent of Darius (Detail)

Talwar Gallery is delighted to present, The Emperor’s New Clothes – Dress, Politics and Identity in Contemporary Pakistani Art – an exhibition curated by Atteqa Ali. The exhibition features works by eight contemporary artists from Pakistan: Akbar Ali, Nizakat Ali Depar, Farheen Haq, Ayesha Jatoi, Naiza Khan, Hasnat Mehmood, Adeela Suleman, and Risham Syed. 

Clothes, fabric, uniforms, and outfits play important roles for some Pakistani artists offering multifaceted views of their society. The international mass media often portrays Pakistanis in military dress or veiled from head to toe. Pakistani artists today are excavating the complexity of their nation through interrogating and creating layered artworks that adopt an intricately woven visual vocabulary, examining and exploring the politics and society of Pakistan through dress, material, and clothing.

Some works include body armor evoking the protective sensibility of women in an immensely male-dominated society. While others incorporate softer fabric that offers a similar defense; conversely, a lightweight, smooth textile can become a heavy and confining prison. Clothing is symbolic in these artworks; it is a loaded sign associated with distressing societal conditions and current events. It can also talk about journeys and the intricacy of how ideas and items travel in the globalized world. And outfits are linked to the naked body underneath through an unexpected relationship of what should be inside versus outside, visible versus invisible.

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Naiza Khan, De-Robe 1

Risham Syed incorporates uniforms that have been witness to longer journeys; the artist uses army coats found in the second-hand market in Lahore and embroiders them with signs of their travels. In Ayesha Jatoi’s works, a red shalwar marking the suffering of a teenage girl flogged publicly in the Taliban-dominated Swat region in Pakistan is painted onto a barely visible drawing while photographs from the performance show women’s clothing washed and hung to dry on fighter jet in the city center. Hasnat Mehmood’s scratched and textured wall installation that brings to surface what is normally hidden underneath. Through her photographs, drawings, and sculptures Naiza Khan also reveals the often concealed – the intimate clothing and undercover protective gear to explore the vulnerability and strength of a woman’s body. Adeela Suleman’s colorful armor is both strong and beautiful, offering multidimensional views of the roles that women play in society. Farheen Haq’s video shows that accessories like a veil offer a shield against the unwanted comments of strangers and friends but can also burden a person with their cultural significance. Clothing and accessories are also markers of individuals and groups in Nizakat Ali’s work; he paints the diverse group of people that he encounters on his long railway journey from Lahore to interior Sindh. Akbar Ali wraps figures tightly with material to symbolize identities that people are unwilling to shed or those that have been strapped on to them. Like clothing that comes off the body, the eight artists in “The Emperor’s New Clothes”, while exposing the stereotypes of Pakistani society inside out, provide us with a rich and complex visual experience.

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Risham Syed

Tent of Darius, 2009

Hand embroidered vintage army coats (five), acrylic on canvas on board

87" x 104" x 10

Adeela Suleman

Sultana, 2009

Steel tongs, electroplated steamer, frying spoon, nuts, and bolts

12" x 41" x 18"

Farheen HaQ

(un)covering, 2002

Film still

Nizakat Ali Depar

Journey, 2009

Gouache on railway tickets

2.5" x 1" (Each of 6) 

Akbar Ali

Accepted Region/Religion 1, 2008

Gouache on wasli

26" x 20"

Akbar Ali

Accepted Region/Religion 2, 2008

Gouache on wasli

20" x 26"

Akbar Ali

Accepted Region/Religion 3, 2008

Gouache on wasli

26" x 20"

Adeela Suleman

Left: Asma, 2009

Steel tongs, measuring spoons, rice serving spoons, and enamel paint

8" x 15" x 14"

Right: Samina, 2009

Steel tongs, bowl, measuring spoons, and enamel paint

7" x 17" x 13"

Ayesha Jatoi

Clothesline 1 & 2, 2007

Photograph

20" x 30" (Each)

Naiza Khan

New Clothes for the Emperor I and II, 2009

Hand printed black and white photograph

24 3/4" x 17 3/4"

Naiza Khan

Bullet-proof Vest, 2009

Galvanised Steel and suede leather

9" x 16" x 21"

Naiza Khan

De-Robe 1, 2009

Charcoal on paper

42 1/2" x 31"

Ayesha Jatoi

Sticks and Stones I-III, 2009

Watercolor and gouache on wasli

19 3/4" x 24 1/2" (Each of 3)

Ayesha Jatoi

Lens, 2009

Inkjet print and ink on paper

31" x 54"

Hasnat Mehmood
Cloth, 2009
Drawing on scratchboards (Each of 5, 11" x 14")
28" x 55" overall

Risham Syed

Tent of Darius, 2009

Hand embroidered vintage army coats (five), acrylic on canvas on board

87" x 104" x 10

Adeela Suleman

Sultana, 2009

Steel tongs, electroplated steamer, frying spoon, nuts, and bolts

12" x 41" x 18"

Farheen HaQ

(un)covering, 2002

Film still

Nizakat Ali Depar

Journey, 2009

Gouache on railway tickets

2.5" x 1" (Each of 6) 

Akbar Ali

Accepted Region/Religion 1, 2008

Gouache on wasli

26" x 20"

Akbar Ali

Accepted Region/Religion 2, 2008

Gouache on wasli

20" x 26"

Akbar Ali

Accepted Region/Religion 3, 2008

Gouache on wasli

26" x 20"

Adeela Suleman

Left: Asma, 2009

Steel tongs, measuring spoons, rice serving spoons, and enamel paint

8" x 15" x 14"

Right: Samina, 2009

Steel tongs, bowl, measuring spoons, and enamel paint

7" x 17" x 13"

Ayesha Jatoi

Clothesline 1 & 2, 2007

Photograph

20" x 30" (Each)

Naiza Khan

New Clothes for the Emperor I and II, 2009

Hand printed black and white photograph

24 3/4" x 17 3/4"

Naiza Khan

Bullet-proof Vest, 2009

Galvanised Steel and suede leather

9" x 16" x 21"

Naiza Khan

De-Robe 1, 2009

Charcoal on paper

42 1/2" x 31"

Ayesha Jatoi

Sticks and Stones I-III, 2009

Watercolor and gouache on wasli

19 3/4" x 24 1/2" (Each of 3)

Ayesha Jatoi

Lens, 2009

Inkjet print and ink on paper

31" x 54"

Hasnat Mehmood
Cloth, 2009
Drawing on scratchboards (Each of 5, 11" x 14")
28" x 55" overall