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Naiza Khan: UNRULY edges

23 March - 11 May

EVENT DESCRIPTION

Rossi & Rossi is delighted to announce the third solo exhibition of British-Pakistani artist Naiza Khan (b. 1968), opening on 23 March through 11 May 2024. On view in UNRULY edges are new oil paintings, drawings and brass reliefs that focus on the changes imposed on bodies of water throughout colonial history. Created in the past
two years, each work appears as multi-layered diagrams and maps, a result of Khan’s long research process that explores the mapping of landscapes and infrastructures old and new. The resulting images thread together issues of land, borders, the extraction of natural resources and the geometry of empires.

Ecological research has long been one of Khan’s core interests, as seen in her 2019 project Manora Field Notes at the Pakistan Pavilion for the 58th Venice Biennale. For the artist, drawing is a conceptual tool, a way to observe, record and reflect. First presented at the 14th Gwangju Biennale, her large-scale charcoal drawings Unruly Edges I and Unruly Edges II see the entanglement of colonial history and hydro-infrastructure. Assembled through historical archives and Khan’s personal experiences, the drawings present abstract and representational modes of thinking about bodies of water and infrastructure. Depicted in Unruly Edges I is the expansion of Karachi Port in the late nineteenth century, a response to the need for circulation infrastructure amidst the growing demand for commodity production (such as wheat and cotton) for the British Empire. This resulted in the constantly changing coastlines of the Indian Ocean, pictured in Unruly Edges II as a seemingly shifting mass, a sea under construction.

Imposing geometries of infrastructure over landscape are recurring motifs in Khan’s new work, and they feature prominently in her oil paintings. Works such as When was this Land/scape and Landhold I and II see the artist framing vast landscapes with irregular, geometric shapes. Based on company paintings that flourished in the nineteenth under the patronage of the East India Company, these shapes are shadows cast by the past. Khan’s paintings show a demarcation of land, the flattened layers representing the ‘becoming’ of sites, telling stories about a land being built and rebuilt. These works ultimately question the conditions under which a landscape is formed.

Khan’s choice of mediums echoes similar concepts of mapping. With watercolours and masking fluid, the artist creates layered forms that indicate the changing nature of landscapes and the borders of port cities. In many of her works, linear text is imposed over aerial views of devolving settlements, drawing out a sense of memory and denoting things that had been forgotten. Tensions between nature and man-made structures are heightened through the pooling and spillage of pigments over the masking fluid that demarcates space. The making of these watercolours is featured prominently in Khan’s Mapping Water (2023), where we see the artist’s process unravel on film. Viewers are guided to think about the compression of time and the impressions held between the layers of paint.

Excavation takes physical form in Khan’s Flatpack (2024), a series of brass reliefs inspired by the discarded parts of her daughter’s 3D puzzles. Referencing the artificial geometries present in Hendrik van Schuylenburgh’s 1665 painting The Trading Post of the Dutch East India Company in Hooghly, Bengal, the artist hollows various details out of brass plates, thus creating leftover sprues of these structures. Many bridges and barrages built in British India during the nineteenth century required the construction of large yet precise parts to be shipped overseas as flat packs. Khan’s reliefs are essentially a reversal: she separates the layers of the painting – ‘the geometric structure from the unruly world’ – in order to re-create the measured geometry in brass.

One corner of the gallery space is dedicated to Khan’s ongoing research project, ‘Walking inCommon’ (2021). Co-led by local researchers, scholars, activists, students and creative practitioners, the project is a situated drawing process that has been organised into podcast form. In each episode, Khan invites a speaker to articulate their immediate environment, sketching out the details of a site. Grown out of research that Khan began in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic – when limitations on physical access to sites, archives and casual encounters were in place – these dispatches from the field allowed Khan to continue her work through the lens of another. Encountered together with the works of UNRULY edges, the experience facilitates a meditation on the makings of a place, its history and its connections to individuals.

ABOUT THE ARTIST / ORGANISER

Naiza Khan is a visual artist who works with drawing, archival material, painting and film. Her current research interests include archives of weather history, the monsoon and its relationship to empire, the circulatory nature of objects and histories of migration. Amongst her recent exhibitions are Sharjah Biennial 15: Thinking Historically in the Present (2023), the 14th Gwangju Biennale: soft and weak like water (2023) and the Lahore Biennale 02: between the sun and the moon (2020).

In 2019, Khan represented Pakistan at the 58th Venice Biennale with the solo project, Manora
Field Notes (2019). She received the distinguished Prince Claus Award from The Netherlands in 2013 in recognition of her initiatives in the fields of art and culture in Pakistan.

Khan trained at the Ruskin School of Art, University of Oxford (1990), and completed her MA at the Centre for Research Architecture, Goldsmiths College, London (2020).

She works between London and Karachi.

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