Archiving Memories
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Archiving Memories

VM Gallery exhibited a group show titled The Tales They Carry featuring works of four female artists, Dua Abbas Rizvi, Razin Rubin, Sarah Mir and Zoila Solomon. Drawing from their personal histories the artists explored the transient nature of home reconciling with the fleeting states of the imagined and the real.

Dua Abbas, My Grandmother's Album, pigment prints on archival paper, 25 x 22 inches

Through her multi-media explorations Dua Abbas Rizvi reflects on the process of the archive as a deeply personal act. She muses on the intimacy in the arrangement of family photo albums. Dreamers in Dark Houses I, is a portrait of a child created in oil pastels, tone of scarlets and purples give the work an eerie vacancy while the whites render the works with a luminosity. The use of material lends the work a lucid quality like that of a dream. The child’s posture with his closed eyes and the hint of a lingering smile catapults the viewer into placid nostalgia. Dreamers in Dark Horses II is a portrait of a small girl carefully tended with the same kind of meticulous detail that evokes a sense of longing. Looking at this work in congruity with My Grandmother’s Album, a series of six abstract interpretations of family albums neatly arranged as shapes on a muted pink archival paper, offers the spectrum of reading Rizvi’s work as a homage to the family archive and positions the viewer in an intimate act of chronicling the dreams of the two children. Stories untold, neatly arranged behind album covers waiting to be heard. The idea of home and belonging are intimately bound to the human experience. Rizvi’s work is bridled with abstract storytelling, allowing viewers to fill in the gaps with musings of their own.

Razin Rubin, Sunday Afternoon, graphite on 300 gram arches paper, 8 x 11.5 inches

Razin Rubin’s work emerges from the memoirs of her family recreated in graphite on paper. Her works transfix the viewer as one can see the clear connection of photography in the images. You can almost hear the click of the flash as the figures sometime stare directly towards the camera or through their positioning in the frame. This allows for another ghostly subject to emerge within her works, the one behind the camera. The way in which her subjects interact with the camera allows for the person behind the lens to be imagined as a warm figure who is engaged in the quiet act of capturing intimate moments. The use of graphite evokes a sense of mystique and emotion. The way Rubin has created the backgrounds allows the portraits to emerge as gauzy stills of the past. In Sunday Afternoon four children are huddled together with a magazine, their faces rendered in great details while their clothes and background details are created with an unpretentious line-quality— one that evokes a naive sense of wonder.

Sarah Mir, Untitled 4, acrylic on paper, 17 x 10 inches

Sarah Mir’s work offers a unique re-imagining of family portraits as she distorts them in a comical manner, thus offering a playful quality to the works. Her use of color and application of medium catapults the viewer into the guileless sense of whimsy. Mir asserts that by creating exaggerated distortions she manages to escape invasive supervision. Her works, rather than appearing vulnerable depictions, emerge as skittish portals that spring with delight and frolic. It aptly captures the evasive nature of good memories as they dance in our mind. In Untitled 4, two siblings sit with a maternal figure in the center; the little boy with his eyes closed pulls you in as he looks sprite with contained mischief while the little girl stares towards you with an asymmetrical eye melting into her cheek. Her style leaves little to the imagination as Mir lights up the portrait with an enchanting sense of quirkiness.

Zoila Solomon, Staple Food, gouache on Montval paper, 19.5 x 27 inches

Zoila Solomon recreates the visual documentation by drawing from the recollections of her mother. She creates rich imagery strife with color and camaraderie. Through her work she narrates the lives of women from Goa who migrated to Pakistan to start new lives. Fish Curry, a set of nine images rendered in gouache, depict the required ingredients for a Goan fish curry. Centered against a white background the familiar ingredients, neatly arranged, allow for a unique reimagining of culture depicted through food. Staple Food further reiterates the idea of food being a focal point in domestic life, as the women seated against each other prepare the fish. Rich tones against stark white background allows Solomon’s imagery to stand out.

The Tales They Carry is a homage to the artists’ depictions of their family; in unison they weave a rich tapestry of stories that live interconnected. The works offer moments of nostalgic introspection, sailing in out of distant songs that spill into choirs of love, loss and begotten dreams.

The group show ‘The Tales They Carry’ was showcased at VM Art Gallery from the 15th of July 2021 till the 1st of August 2021.

Title image: Section of ‘Pansy dearest’, Razin Rubin, Graphite on 300gsm arches paper, 10 x 12 inches, 2021


Ammara Jabbar is an artist and writer based in Karachi, Pakistan. Jabbar graduated from the Indus Valley School of Art & Architecture in 2015, since then she has displayed her artwork nationally and internationally. She was the recipient of the Imran Mir Art Prize in 2018 and is currently a Visiting Artist Fellow at the Mittal Institute at Harvard University.

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