The twenty first century witnesses’ significant expansion in the study of human cognition, encompassing psychology and linguistics as interdisciplinary spheres of cognitive science; shedding light on the intricate mechanisms that underlie the processing of information, revealing how our minds decode data. Consequently, models such as feature detection have surfaced, providing insights into the mechanisms governing our recognition, comprehension, and interpretation of visual attributes or stimuli. These models contribute to our understanding of how sensory input is translated into meaningful experiences, ultimately enhancing our grasp of human emotions and communication. This era has marked the commencement of an exhilarating journey into the intricacies of the human mind.
Held at the VM Gallery, the two-person show In Stillness We Move offers diverse perspectives on the concept of self— sparking dialogues about human experiences within a lived environment. Emaan Pirzada and Nain Tara’s art provides us with glimpses into the intricate, emotional landscapes of both artists. Through their body of work, Pirzada and Tara delve into the intricate relationship between individuals and their surroundings, illuminating the multifaceted nature of human existence. These artists’ depictions of self and space hold pronounced significance, and can be viewed as a form of sensory information, helping the audience gain a deeper insight into the notion of one’s self and its diverse range of emotions.
Scientific advancements in the field of clinical neurology and neuroscience have enabled us to grasp the metaphysical nature of emotions— intangible and elusive. In a similar vein, these artists can be viewed as societal advancements, serving as platforms for audiences to connect with emotions on a tangible level. They have effectively recreated emotional boundaries, loss, absence, bonding, and communication through artistic mediums. In essence, they have accomplished artistically what science has achieved methodically: offering insights into the human experience on a physical and creative level.
Human beings are driven by a desire to establish deep and meaningful connections with those around them. Pirzada and Tara serve as conduits for unfiltered, genuine emotions, creating a space where both the artist and the audience can form profound emotional bonds. Through their creative endeavors, they capture and express the complexities of the human experience, enabling others to resonate with their thoughts and consequent emotions. In today’s consumer-driven world, where disconnection (of sorts) from humanity is often witnessed, this amity becomes especially vital. The works of the artists demonstrate their ability to transcend personal emotional boundaries, fostering a collective sense of compassion and comraderies, and nurturing a shared conscience.
The two artists have crafted captivating visuals that act as windows into their private worlds, exposing their vulnerabilities in pursuit of finding authentic connection to their ‘self’. Emaan Pirzada’s, Whispers of Letters: A visual Reverie I, delves into the realm of written correspondences, particularly physical letters sent to her by others. These letters serve as poignant windows into the vulnerabilities of the individuals who penned them, and their profound connection to the artist and the spaces she inhabits. One such letter, originates from the artist’s sister, delivering into the complex emotion of deep loss. Within its words, her sibling candidly discusses her journey towards acceptance following the absence of their father. Their correspondence sheds a tender light on the significance of human connection during times of bereavement, highlighting the power of sharing delicate situations and emotions through written words. It emphasizes the role of these personal letters in not only connecting individuals, but also in preserving and honoring depth in relationships. Consequently, Pirzada has depicted the entrance of her home, as mentioned in the letter by her sister, to further evoke that sense of loss: preserving and reflecting on that loss. This forges a powerful connection between the artist, the artwork and the observer. By sharing the ‘collective memory’, Pirzada allows the audience to partake in social togetherness and comfort. In an ever-evolving society marked by rapid social, global, and environmental transformations, the concept of forging a shared consciousness takes on paramount importance.
The artists’ profound exploration of the intricate facets of human existence not only provides valuable insights, such as emotional depth and personal identity, it also establishes a meaningful connection with their audience, further encouraging contemplation of the human condition.
In response to external factors affecting one’s self or the society as a whole, individuals seek to regain a sense of control or ownership over themselves by asserting influence over spaces—physical or emotional. This is precisely what the two artists have established through their work. Therefore, the intricate interplay of all these forces becomes a central focus for these artists as they delve into the intricacies of human connection and understanding.
Pirzada conveys the theme of loss by sharing memories with her family, through her practice she sheds light on the strengthened bonds within her family unit. Conversely, Nain Tara delves into the concept of loss and a feeling of displacement through the emotional terrain of her artistry. Her work incorporates chaotic and tumultuous patterns, bold brushstrokes, a vibrant palette, and unrestrained forms. Through the unbridled use of colors and composition her work ‘Untitled’ mirrors the emotions of confusion and uncertainty associated with a sense of disruption. These artists portray unique relationships with the theme of loss: one centered around the physical space of home, the other on the emotional realm of memory and displacement.
This sentiment holds particular significance in the context of a shared consciousness, that resonates with the experiences of individuals globally displaced due to factors ranging from migration to internal displacements to detachments. Nain Tara’s artwork transcends the physical confines of home and the mundane, evolving into a metaphysical space that fosters an understanding of herself as a thinking entity distinct from her physical body.
Tara appears to embed her memories and emotions of detachment directly into the creative process, using unconstrained strokes, colors, and patterns on the canvas as her means of expression. In contrast, Pirzada relies on tangible objects and specific locations to evoke nostalgia and attachment, infusing everyday items with emotional depth. In her piece, Keepsakes, Pirzada employs material elements like the Tapal tea bag and the fifty rupees note as her creative mediums to evoke nostalgic attachment. These objects carry a rich, emotional history, serving as vessels for profound memories. They convey a sense of belonging that is intimately linked to self and the idea of belonging, yet it is a sentiment shared by millions. This plays heavily into the narrative of collective consciousness. Both approaches underscore art’s ability to capture and convey complex emotions and connections in a myriad of ways.
Individuals seek to immerse themselves in fantastical, metaphysical realms, and in the virtual realities of today’s world, all of which extend far beyond their ordinary comprehension and provide experiences beyond the scope of different forms of existence. This concept closely aligns with the renowned French philosopher and mathematician, René Descartes and his theory of res cogitans. This theory explores the notion that the thinking self, or the mind, has the capacity to transcend the physical body and connect with experiences that transcend the material world.
In the context of the two exhibiting artists, their ability to evoke emotions and craft physical spaces within their artwork serves as a means to transcend the confines of the self and allow viewers to enter an altered state of consciousness, effectively creating a unique and alternative physical space. It offers a direct glimpse into one’s own mind, thoughts, and self. This exploration delves deeply into how the mind can generate and forge connections within alternative spaces and realities, echoing Descartes contemplation of the relationship between the ‘thinking self and the physical world’. The future is characterized by origination and encounters, which are accessible to the individual self, both in isolation and as integral components of broader social networks. These encounters also surpass the scientific understandings of cognition, because experiences allow a deep-rooted human to human connection.
‘In stillness, We Move’ was displayed at the VM Gallery between the 15th of July and the 5th of August, 2023.
Title Image: Hallway Of Tranquility, Emaan Pirzada, 25 x 16.8 inches, watercolour, gouache and graphite on Wasli, 2023
All images courtesy of VM Art Gallery.
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