Devil's in the details

Pakistani artist, Rashid Rana, famous for his photo mosaics, talks about his work.

“Art toh, hawa ki tarah hain, isse sarhadein kaise rok saktha hain,” says Rashid Rana. And for an artist who belongs to the other side of the border and who is famous around the world, his words only resonate further.

The Pakistani artist’s session at the Krishnakriti Festival of Art and Culture 2016 had so many attendees that the venue had to be arranged at a space where a musical concert was scheduled on Saturday.

A well-known name from the South Asian art community, Rana’s works — from the series of photo mosaics and art installations to his piece ‘Shuhuud-o-shaahid — mashhuud’ at the Venice Biennale that created a virtual connection between Venice and a mirrored room in Lahore — all seamlessly move through mediums such as paintings, video, installation and photography. For someone who trained in the traditional form of painting, the shift to new media art was part of a mission. “Since long, art has a very elitist tag to it. The audience is very niche. So I decided to take my art to as many people as possible. And I also learnt to adapt to the changing scenario of art,” he says.

Rana’s work deals with everyday issues such as faith, tradition and urbanisation. His famous photo-mosaic works “document paradoxes”. For instance, his work The World Is Not Enough looks like a calm image of a sea, but is in fact made up of thousands of images of garbage in Pakistan. This dedication to detail makes Rana’s work much loved.

Some of his most famous series Veil, Red Carpet and What Lies Between Flesh and Blood were definitely crowd-pullers. Veil, an image of a burqa-clad woman, was created using photos of women from the porn industry.

“One would believe that these two images belong to completely different worlds, but the truth is, they are connected. It is a depiction of women across the world. I make works that seduce people.” he says.

Red Carpet uses images of a slaughterhouse into facsimiles of Persian rugs and What Lies Between Flesh and Blood is an abstract work that has images of wounds and skin. So does he fear when he creates controversial works? “No. I create art for myself and once I do so, I then safeguard my work. With these works there was censorship, but on my part. I chose not to showcase these works in regions that would not accept it. But, you’d be surprised to find that even in Paris and New York there was a bit of censorship that happened. It happens everywhere.”

Last year, Rana and Indian artist Shilpa Gupta created a work for the Venice Biennale. “My piece was a five-room series about connecting two different cities on different ends of the earth through art,” he explains.

Currently, the busy Rana is the Dean of the School of Visual Arts and Design at the Beaconhouse National University; he finds time to work, travel and spend time with family. “I really wish the day had 36 hours. I could do with a few extra hours, just to make enough time for everything,” he says.

( Source : deccan chronicle )
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