Art review

Between words and drawings

Mariam Suhail's previous exhibition used the apparent naivety of linear, realistic illustration for basic, largely pure emotions in relationships. Her "Breakdown of Shorter Concerns" at Galleryske (May 12 to June 22) is stronger, subtler and sharp in its complexity dealing with the role, method and process of drawing as a tool to probe the nature and behaviour of reality and tracing the rapport between images and words, sensation and analysis, drawings and three-dimensional objects.

Their intrinsic permeability admits simultaneous revelation, absurdity and frustrating opacity, while the conceptual conclusions can be intuited from simple, direct observations and acts whose matter-of-fact character has absorbed physical rawness and theory insights, warm humour and lyricism.

Fragmentary vignettes and situations from the immediate describe in drawing-like framed sentences ordinary sights of nature awkwardly negotiating a place among urban surroundings, inscrutable habits, a generation without history, people unsuccessfully trying to manage the city chaos, as her Pakistani origin adds to the baffling multicultural layers of the local.

Looking at unnamed individuals close-on, she strives to be precise and distanced too to see general phenomena in them.

On the other hand, objects, when approached in proximity, sometimes turn unwieldy gaining an eerie life and will of their own.

Another apparently direct register of reality, photography corroborates this, as a long strip of rooftops conjures a water-tank city so wastefully abundant that some containers hover in the air.

Images and words combine towards a mutually enhancing, though never quite clear, impact in the series of notebooks with observations, questions and drawings that oscillate on the edge of intimate sketches and illustrations but point to elements of the aesthetic language whose source hides in the enigmatic or plain incomprehensible actual.
A naked man who begins to resemble a dog, then a fox, ill-fitting containers and caps, inverted or splitting objects and ones devoid of context lead to thinking about metaphor, the need to displace, change and rip apart things to glimpse inside them, while considering the blackness of a raven brings geometry and abstraction, even if the precision becomes disturbed by the blotches seeping to the back of the thin paper.

A cycle of serious-mock drawings wish for the step-by-step logical method of an engineer in order to transpose volumes into flat diagrams  and instruct how to fold a door, an office table and a wheelbarrow.

The inextricable presence of plasticity in its two-dimensional rendering generates a variety of weird sculptures - dysfunctional conjoined twin wheelbarrows that display both stages of that folding action, a bureau metamorphosed onto almost architectural strata of trays and a dining table mounted on the wall as though a picture, its legs stretched out relief-like. What the draughtsman has to do at last, consistently with the artistic act and in exasperation at the illogic of objects, is to punch, shatter, get into the belly of things and indeed break them down.

A large drawing with cancelled words and chart has a man with a hammer and faces a sculptural assembly of bright red gas cylinders that from a condition of fullness and expansion 'dispand' under gaping slashes and violent crushing blows.

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