T.He still remembers the 9/11 attacks in the memory of those who saw the two planes entering the Twin Towers and how the world changed after this unfortunate Tuesday. However, others are 9/11. One was mentioned by Chilean author Ariel Dorfman, “9/11 is full of death.” It was the day Chile lost its democracy in a 1973 military coup led by General Augusto Pinochet and sponsored by the CIA. Martin Ames, a British author, recalls another such history, referring to the clash of so-called civilizations: “It all began with the withdrawal of Turkish troops from Vienna and the confirmation of the Islamic decline. The year was 1683. And the day was September 11th.
Between us, we came to a different 9/11; On the morning of September 11, 2020, newspapers across Pakistan reported a woman being gang-raped in the presence of her children. Cruelty, cruelty and crime shook the whole nation. This included Warda Shabbir. As the rape took place in a field off the road, the leaves of the grass witnessed it. Shabbir considers them a sign of helplessness. He has produced a channel video, a river. This is footage of rice paddy fields, bent by the force of the wind (actually managed by a heavy duty fan). One can link the location of the video to the scene of the attack, as rice fields spread everywhere in Upper Punjab, especially near Sialkot.
Like every worthy artist, Shabbir incorporates other elements that make his work not about individual atrocities but an unbearable experience of living in the current situation where women, children and minorities are abused and coping with cowardice. Is suppressed. The sound in this video installation is a recording of breathing behind someone’s face mask. The voice of survival in the epidemic is thus linked to the silent struggle of rape victims. One can imagine the cry for help, the protest and the struggle that died between the rows of rice plantations.
The field of leaves and green grass is not new to Wardha Shabbir. She has been involving them in her work for many years. However, it is only in a special place that someone recognizes a bridge between your image and the content shared by a large community. This is not just a motorway incident, it refers to the many types of efforts found in art.
His paintings are full of leaves, flowers, trees and a few insects and birds. Everything that is familiar with the level of normalcy. However, Shabbir then creates compositions that show more than just plants. Traces of tradition, attitudes toward the region, attempts to imitate the earth in a variety of pictorial forms, are all visible in its manicure. Although his paintings have moved miles away from what is traditionally considered a miniature painting, it is still embedded in the historical genre.
She explains her link to the hill school, since Lahore, the city of her residence and studio, was part of the hill school (she says the plants in her paintings are from Lahore). The style of miniature painting is known for presenting nature, ie plants, clouds, birds, animals in a sensitive and wide way. I can never forget the deep monsoon clouds displayed in the Mandi Miniature at the Lahore Museum (Virahani Naika, 1820) or a painting of Kangra from the collection of Mrs. John F. Kennedy (Lovers See Rain Clouds, 1780).
As in past pictures, there is a meaning / code for the inclusion of trees, flowers, streams and birds. These elements in Warda Shabbir’s paintings lead us to other concepts. Its plants grow out of the soil of imagination: no shade, no daylight, no lines of local depth. All of these are considered as maps on paper. In some works, (full of stars, Parent Garden 2 and 3) looks at the arrangement of a retreating plane, which indicates the distance, but basically these are present as components of two-dimensional aesthetics ( Another link to traditional miniature painting, as well as modern and contemporary art after Paul Season and the Cubists).
What Warda Shabbir has been making for the last few years is probably not a painting but a map. A painting, even if it is a small picture made during the Mughal period, is an extension of reality on paper, while a map is an alternative to reality, a concept, a calculation, a pair. It is a description and when someone tells or tells a story, along with its content, we also understand the intent of the narrator. A map is a combination of observation and hypothesis, to track the destination – a house in London, or an island in the Pacific: a practical goal. However, if we assume that Shabbir makes maps, where do they take us?
I’m not sure about others but on several occasions I have opened Google Maps and found a street in London, a house in Dhaka, a gallery in New York City, a cinema in Madrid. Places I’ve been to in the past. I can look at them again thanks to this application. Warda Shabbir uses Google Maps to create some of her own compositions: demarcation uncomplicated such as pastor land boundary, or boundary wall area. In his paintings (A River of Earth, and Rising in Silence), he comes across a border line that separates two fields, or a circular patch of planting in the center of a bright yellow background.
Along with the maps, the maze (or their sequence) also enchants Warda Shabbir. She distinguishes between maps and mazes, such as “finding and losing”. However, one is forced to consider the differences between the two parts. Are the two the same? More recently, she has been mapping from physical experience: the route from her hotel in London to her gallery, and from imaginary settings: a small compound, a small wall, or some scattered places. This change is evident in his paintings which have a geometric basis, the illusion of a map / maze with a wealth of plants sitting on strong red, green, yellow, orange and green, these boundaries of walls, homeless barriers, Filled maze (besides reminiscent of a strong surface of Basuhli manicure), suggest another story. In his words, “drawing a boundary line is a way to separate unwanted fields.”
Looking at her works on paper in the glitter of her video installation, one realizes that no field, no garden, no roadway is a non-hostile place for man, let alone a woman in our country, who Forced to prioritize map. Maps are secure, secure in our mobile, mind and manhood. (Its solo exhibition Green Meter is being held on July 13-24, 2021 at Canvas Gallery, Karachi).
The author is a Lahore-based art critic.