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LAST CHANCE Hamra Abbas: Bodies
10 November 2016Free
This solo exhibition by Hamra Abbas, her second at the gallery, moves easily between a variety of materials. The work is influenced by the artist’s recent move back to Lahore, in particular her observations of middle-class religious practices in public and private spaces there.
At the heart of the exhibition is a new sculpture, the second in her Barakah Gifts series (the first is currently being installed at the American Embassy in Islamabad). Barakah Gifts are large-scale reproductions of commercial souvenirs sold as mementos for pilgrims at the markets adjacent to mosques; typically they rework images from holy sites into everyday items such as water bottles, paperweights, clocks and plates. Barakah Gift II is a penholder made up of a colourful composition of shiny minarets, shimmering balls and the Kaaba; transformed into an ostentatious and absurdly large installation, it reveals the seductive interplay between commerce and devotion.
In contract, three painted woodcarvings testify to the artist’s observation of everyday life in Lahore. These works are hyperrealist sculptures that create icons out of the ordinary. Each of these sculptures has been timelessly rendered, giving the original mundane objects a weight and presence that goes far beyond the accidental.
Switching from sculpture to photography is Sweet and Savory, a sentimental photograph of two small piles of rice left on a security barrier at the entrance to one of the most revered shrines in Lahore. Food is distributed here every day for visitors, but the rice on the edge of a security barrier is seemingly for the birds. Hospitality coexists with hostility, and the image highlights the current state of unease in Pakistan’s devotional sites.
Above: Hamra Abbas, Plastic Flowers 1 (detail); 2016. Sheesham wood and oil paints. Courtesy Lawrie Shabibi and the artist