Critics can’t fault Pakistani artist Rashid Rana’s Guimet show

PAKISTANI ARTISTS PHOTOGRAPHY SCULPTURE

Pakistani artist Rashid Rana, 42 is exhibiting twenty-seven sculptures and photomontages in his retrospective called “Perpetual Paradox” at the Musée Guimet in Paris. Born and working in Lahore, Rana is known for documenting paradoxes and contradictions. Below is a round-up of the immediate critical response to the show.

A close up of the images in each square of Rashid Rana's 'Desperately Seeking Paradise' (2007-8), part of the artist's retrospective at the Musee Guimet in Paris. Image taken from universes-in-universe.org.

A close up of the images in each square of Rashid Rana's 'Desperately Seeking Paradise' (2007-8), part of the artist's retrospective at the Musee Guimet in Paris. Image taken from universes-in-universe.org.

Rashid Rana’s work called paradoxical yet harmonious

Nazanin Lankarani, writing for The New York Times describes “Perpetual Paradox” as “a view of a conflicted world as seen though the eyes of an artist torn between dualities that he confronts in Pakistan, a country of extremes.” Rana’s works “explore the tenuous connection between realities that co-exist despite seemingly incompatible premises.”

Lankarani highlights that on occasion Rana’s works can be “provocative” and uses the exhibited work What Lies Between Flesh and Blood (2009) and Rana’s “Flesh” series from 2004, not exhibited, as examples. The former attempts to explore the relationship between sex and violence, evident in the East and West.

Desperately Seeking Paradise (2007-8) is less controversial, Lankarini notes. The work, a monumental steel cube placed in the centre of museum’s rotunda, is described in The New York Times article.

“Reminiscent of the shape of Kaaba, the sacred Muslim site in Mecca, the piece is at first glance an imposing minimalist construct. When seen from afar, its surfaces reflect an optical image of a sleek city skyline. As one peeks into the small cubes that form the structure’s metal grid, pixel images reveal precarious shelters in Lahore, traffic jams and street peddlers, hinting at the global corporate growth that exists alongside Third World poverty.”

Rashid Rana, 'Desperately Seeking Paradise', 2007-8, C Print + DIASEC and stainless steel, 300 x 300 cm. Image taken from universes-in-universe.org.

Rashid Rana, 'Desperately Seeking Paradise', 2007-8, C Print + DIASEC and stainless steel, 300 x 300 cm. Image taken from universes-in-universe.org.

Lankarini concludes that “despite the experimental nature of many of the works, the show achieves a harmonious co-existence with the museum’s collection of ancient objects.”

Guimet boldly steps into contemporary art with Rana show

The curator and director of the show, Jacques Gies, in an interview with us in August this year reports that Rana’s contemporary works successfully integrate with the ancient pieces in the Museum. He describes the reaction to the exhibition:

“It seems this is the first exhibition of this scale in France, certainly for a monographic exhibition. The first ever reactions, including [those] from the staff of the museum, are extremely positive. They see a new step in the policy of the Musée Guimet.”

Nafas Arts Magazine writer can’t criticise Rana

Rosa Maria Falvo, writing for Nafas Arts Magazine, struggles to criticise the exhibition, and is thoroughly impressed by the “integrative, interdisciplinary, and collaborative curatorial practice.”

“Excitingly, this invites new audiences into the space, revives debate on what defines cultural memory, nationalism in art, the influences of colonisation, modernisation, and globalisation, and puts a contemporary face on the past.”

She discusses how the works in the exhibition question conventional analysis. With works such as I Love Miniatures (2002) and Red Carpet 1 (2007) Falvo witnesses,

“Interchangeability in terms of dimension, time, and space – using popular imagery and actual events – [drawing] us away from conventional interpretations of heritage, portraiture, symbolism, and ornamentation.”

Rashid Rana, 'I love Miniatures', 2002, C Print + DIASEC (without frame), 25.4 x 34.65 cm. Image taken from universes-in-universe.org.
Rashid Rana, ‘I love Miniatures’, 2002, C Print + DIASEC (without frame), 25.4 x 34.65 cm. Image taken from universes-in-universe.org.

The Telegraph sees “signs of intelligent art” in Rana’s works

The Telegraph‘s Gareth Harris further highlights that the artist creates new associations with the works in this show, destroying traditional stereotypes, through juxtaposing bigger and smaller pictures and using familiar imagery.

Harris comments that this is “intriguing, rather than imposing, [these] interventions [invite] closer inspection (always a sign of intelligent art).”

He describes Red Carpet 1 (2007) and I Love Miniatures (2002):

Red Carpet-1 (2007), resembles a traditional Persian rug but look closely, and you’ll find that the garish red detail derives from the blood of slaughtered animals (this 21st-century mosaic is actually an assemblage of images taken in the abattoirs of Lahore). Meanwhile, an early digital print, I Love Miniatures (2002), turns out to be a historic Mughal portrait composed from a multitude of small-scale billboard advert imagery (Rana, it appears, enjoys making mischief).”

Harris also notes the “interplay between 2D and 3D perspectives” in Rana’s work, specifically in Desperately Seeking Paradise (2007-8).

How does Rashid Rana explain his work? Not a new media artist

Rashid Rana himself describes his work as relating more closely to the media of painting, calling his productions “essentially paintings.” Originally a painter, he does not accept the title of new media artist.

AN/KN/HH

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