Galerie Mirchandani + Steinruecke is delighted to present “Recitation”, Abul Hisham’s second solo exhibition at the gallery. To recite is to create an opening for epiphanies in the present, to infuse the ordinary with clues for repair and redemption. The framework of recitation provides the point of entry into this exhibition, which comprises eight large-scale and seven small-format works made using soft pastel and charcoal on paper.
Hisham’s paintings depict archetypal characters in the midst of heightened states of contemplation and churning. We see the protagonist of Complaining Man II, mouth agape, holding a pearl between his fingers, having threaded white globules into the Malayalam words nale, innale, innu (tomorrow, yesterday, today). Behind him, similar spherical forms are used for outlines of phantoms, of a portly saint from a children’s book shown summoning a horse, and two veiled men screaming in agony. Stones levitate, and a screwdriver follows suit, while a ball, a glass, and a bottle, and their respective shadows, remain rooted to the ground. The Arabic words algharur for ego and raghbat for desire are written over and over again.
Along with the vast repository of ideas and icons that are available to Hisham through this training in art and his consumption of popular culture, there is also another world of moral tales, legends, and texts that Hisham has access to owing to his study of Islam. In Recitation 5, Hisham paints rows of incense sticks over the grave, transforming objects otherwise used for rituals and worship into the blocks of an incomplete grid. Allusions to Ajanta murals and Gupta sculpture are pronounced, even as miniatures, illustrations and poster art continue to provide the vocabulary. Hidden Obstacles (19th Trap) borrows its schema from Ajanta murals, with the facial features and ornaments of the group executed with a delicate luminosity matching the Buddhist cave paintings.
Hisham’s confident quotations from varied textual and visual sources demonstrate his agility as a painter, and his sense of humour within the serious task of translating texts and images accrued as cultural heritage in this contemporary moment. He seems to be bridging the distance between artistic manoeuvres commenting on form and lived experiences of tradition.
Excerpted from the exhibition essay by Zeenat Nagree