The disconnect between what you see and what is
KARACHI: ‘Yay Yah Woh’ means this or that, but Sophia Balagamwala’s exhibition of the same name uses these as words as well as exclamations, ‘yay, yeah and woah’. The first glimpse of Balagamwala’s exhibition title gives viewers insight into her exciting work.
On the surface, the exhibition, currently on display at VM Art Gallery, evokes a happy feeling. After all, by Balagamwala’s own admission, the inspiration is drawn from children’s books and caricatures, giving it a childlike vibe. But in reality the art work has myriads of hidden stories and subject matter, such as power, gender and politics that the artist has concealed behind the veil of the happy, easy nature of her work.
She has made use of construction foam coupled with mixed media to create the desired effect of duplicity in her work. The installations titled ‘Poof’, with their varying shades of pink, blue and purple, are an example of this concept. Appearing as a brain, cotton candy and at times as a unique television set, the title ‘Poof’ does justice to the concept – seconds before it was one thing but now it has transformed into something else entirely.
Then there is the concept of fact mixed with myth and fiction. Her work titled ‘All I ever wanted to was to be Pink’ or ‘Head Dress No Stress’ takes a national symbol, the Jinnah cap, and plays both on political and masculine levels. “Men are supposed to be about power but the only manly thing is his moustache,” said the artist, referring to a painting of a man in a Jinnah cap. Along the same lines, Balagamwala has also challenged other stereotypes. For example, the faces appear to be small and cute, a thought that is not really associated with powerful men, especially for an army general. “Yes they are cute and childlike. A word that you definitely wouldn’t associate with a dictator,” she said.
Apparently the contrasts and irony does not end here. Balagamwala also uses her choice of medium as a tool to trick the viewer. Though the foam material appears very soft, its texture is very rough. “It is a material used as a fill-in medium,” the artist elaborated, adding that this too is interplay between what you see and what you feel.