The Anatomy of An Object
The Anatomy of An Object

Affan Baghpati’s sculptural explorations have evolved into a spectacle of multiplicities revealing an interplay of associations and the artist’s craftsmanship in forging relationships welded together through a series of found objects. He carefully manipulates these materials emphasizing the nature of narrative building through personal experiences, social commentary and psychological motifs that have been created over the years. These visual elements have been repeated and recreated through colorful sculptural inventiveness and curated with a theatrical vernacular that invites viewers into Baghpatis’s immersive art practice. His recent solo presentation titled ‘non(object)’ was displayed at Koel Gallery, Karachi where we saw the artist expand on his treasury of sculptural investigations creating pieces that use print and drawing techniques.

Pehelwan, 13 x 18 x 3 inches, hand-sawing, steel plate, silver solder, brass; 13 x 18 x 3 inches; 2022.
Pehelwan emboss, 17 x 14 x 1.5 inches, manual press, emboss on coloured card, 2023

Baghpati continuously experiments with image-making techniques, sometimes appearing in the form of delicate carving, welding, and assembling of metals which can be associated with traditional carving to create printing plates. The spirit of deconstructing and reimagining materials are central themes in the artist’s process as he chooses to highlight the abstraction of form and line while retaining the classical associations of antiquity. The images and forms can be linked back to Baghpati’s growing repertoire of visuals, as seen in the Pehelwan steel stencil that he has hand sawed and paired with his iconic brass topper that is then used as a drawing and printing tool in ‘Pehelwan emboss’ where the artist manual pressed it to create a perfect indentation on paper.

Lady not yearning for her lover; 36 x 18 x 2 1/2 inches, hand-sawing, 4 brass plates, copper, silver solder, aqeeq stone, glass, 2023

Being playful when exploring the intersectionality of materials allows the artist to create infinite possibilities of spontaneity that signal a new direction in his practice, where he is assembling a series of hand-sawed forms to create a tableau. The act of sawing into found brass plates, as seen in ‘Lady not yearning for her lover’, creates the first set of drawings where the void left behind on the brass plate is activated as its own unique form. A reclining figure was removed from one of the brass plates, a grand bed with pillows from the second plate, the third plate features a long pipe attached to a traditional hookah and two birds flying in the sky and lastly, the fourth plate depicts a standing figure gently bowing holding their hand close to their face. The positioning of these figures is precise in order to create a conversation between the removed form and the intricate detailing left behind on the plate.

Lady not yearning for her lover; 36 x 18 x 2 1/2 inches, hand-sawing, four brass plates, copper, silver solder, aqeeq stone, glass, 2023.

The second act of this process of image-making is that the artist then reassembles these cut-outs to create a tableau. The naturalistic textures of shine and iridescence create a symphony of details that are painterly and rich in color. The forms are then further detailed with copper, silver solder, aqeeq stone and glass elements to finish their characterization in the staging. What we see as an end result is a new conversation that has begun between the reclining figure on the bed, smoking a hookah and the standing figure presenting an object in subservience. Baghpati creates a cinematic sequence that retains the old-world charm of traditional tapestry and miniature painting motifs while subverting the predictability of classical narrative with relational dynamics that are referencing the present.

Self-melt, 6(3/4) x 6(3/4) inches, chine-collé, top roll, manual press, 2013.

At first glance, ‘self-melt’ seems to be a two-dimensional work of art but on closer examination, we begin to trace the artist’s experimentations into chine-collé printing techniques that resonate with the hybridity of craftsmanship seen in his other sculpture pieces. The chine-collé printing process painstakingly transfers the image from a copper plate onto a thin layer of tissue that is then pressed onto another sheet of paper. The desire to steer an image in a multiplicity of directions is parallel to Baghpati’s ability to use collage as a baseline to create compositions and sculptural works. In his practice, he will transcend the obvious representational forms creating an iconography of materials that actively shifts the perspective of the viewer.

Sapera, assemblage, 7(1/2) x 6 x 6 inches, 4 x 4 x 4 inches, found objects, brass, copper, vinyl, glass beads, semi-precious stones, zarkon crystals, synthetic hair, acrylic paint, 2022
Bakri Wala, 12 x 5 x 5 inches, assemblage, found objects, brass, vinyl, glass beads, glass stone, synthetic hair; 2023

The overly ornate ‘Bakri Wala’ comes from reimagining a commonly seen interaction between man and his animal, to a grand comical moment styled in carnival amusement. An unusual wall-hanging piece, titled kettle, pairs animal horns with a steel teapot as a witty replacement for a traditional antler mount. The clever wordplay in ‘Baja-dani’ uses the Baghpati-esque hand-carved burma teak phool-jaal object as the top half joined to a saxophone creating the surmadani bottle that we see time and again in the artist’s various bodies of works. These distinct assemblages have become synonymous when describing Baghpati’s visual vocabulary. The nature of these sculptural collages is transient as compared to the highly polished and elegant objects such as ‘silver surmadani’ which has finesse and is finished to perfection. Searching for balance in all his works of art, the artist is able to create functional designs in the form of jewellery pieces that merges his modern and traditional motifs.

Paak, 6(3/4) x 6(3/4), collagraph (plate), grey paper, manual press, 2013
Na-paak, 6(3/4) x 6(3/4), collagraph (plate), grey paper, manual press, 2013.

The artist has been able to craft a process for each stream of his visual explorations, starting from found objects that he collected at Sunday bazaars and transformed into brightly colored collaged sculptures; going on to create transient antique metal objects that had been detailed painstakingly, to swiftly move on to jewelry design that captures the opulence of gold and silver material. This exhibition traverses through a variety of paradigms, and looks back at the drawing and print-making work of the artist— which feels like the beginning of an introspective journey into image-making especially when one chances upon ‘Dari’.

The artist is drawn to selecting subject matter that challenges the viewer to interact with the image, the ‘Paak’ and ‘Na-paak’ paintings are a call back to Marcel Duchamp’s ‘Fountain’ that challenged the traditions of art by using a urinal as a found object. The presence of animals has been a continuing sculptural element in Baghpati’s work that take on various kinds of energies, sometimes they are hyper-masculine while others showcase vulnerability and passion. The ‘tota lota’ is a painting depicting a parrot’s lower body in the form of a toilet wash jug, each of the two halves carries personifications that are reflective of the artist’s personal experiences and identity.

There is a polarized sense of harmony within these pieces as they draw their balance by pairing extremely contrasting elements. Baghpati effectively incorporates shadow and light as elements of curation that activate negative space in his metal works or hold together the humanized presence of his assemblages. The exhibition is presented as a conversational experience established by the artist to express, at times, what is otherwise considered illicit. Through his art, Baghpati invites the viewer into his world of the whimsical, where his creations can be freely interpreted according to the viewer’s personal history, memories, identity and experiences.

‘non(object), a solo exhibition by Affan Baghpati was displayed at the Koel Art Gallery from February 14 – March 1, 2023.

Title Image: Under my umbrella,  9 x 19 x 8 inches, assemblage, found objects, brass, copper, porcelain, vinyl, synthetic hair, acrylic paint, 2023.

All images, courtesy Koel Gallery.

Nayha Jehangir Khan completed her Bachelor in Fine Arts from York University, Toronto, Canada in 2010 and is currently based in Lahore. Her work experience includes fine arts, e-commerce & content, and art writing. She has written reviews covering art exhibitions, theatre, music, gastronomy, travel, dance & film for print and digital media publications, her writing expertise is focused on highlighting entrepreneurs & creatives. Passionate about art therapy, Nayha is an Art Therapy Practitioner and has experience in volunteer teaching in remote valleys of Northern Areas of Pakistan.

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