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Simeen Farhat

Simeen Farhat

 

The text in my sculptures and installations are revolutionary poems, appropriated mostly from famous Farsi, Urdu and English poets, such as Rumi, Saadi, Khayyam, Ghalib, Faiz, and Fitzgerald, to name a few, who all wrote powerfully about freedom of thought and speech. The small-scale wall-mounted sculptures, “Speech Bubbles,” represent the poems’ poignant and piercing power to induce strong emotions. As many of these poems have also been sung by famous singers from the sub-continent, the suspended installations also express the poems’ melodic power and ability to elicit uplifting thoughts. The shadows cast on the wall are also vital to the aesthetic as they add additional depth and layers behind their meaning. My goal is to translate their poetic dynamism into visual energy. By pairing female forms with poetic text, I strive to show a connection between the mind and soul: a mind is free to think and a soul free to exist - separate from their utterance as a sound and with or without the coverings of an outer garment. The text is used aesthetically, as a flowing pattern; as well as philosophically, paired with the ethereal figures it enables a dialogue with the viewer or monologue between mind and body.Through the interactive nature of my installations and sculptures, I pose questions for each culture to examine from their own perspective: Recognizing that this work represents women’s freedom to think, can this work be called a universally Feminist art?(Simeen Farhat) While today’s delineations in the Iranian Plateau, the Sub-Continent and Transoxiana have led to nation states with distinct and differing cultural identities, these nations were for more than a millennia part of the greater Iranian Empire and its progeny. This shared history is literally and conceptually evident in certain art forms including Persian poetry, which all but belie the contested and often violent history of the region after its fragmentation. It is to this body of art, Persian, Perso-Urdu and Urdu poetry specifically, which Simeen Farhat has referred for her re-engagement with tradition within her framework of modernism. Farhat’s notions of modernism and modernity have purposefully countered the more recent commonality found in the region -- that of militant extremism -- which in many ways has given a Medusa like rebirth to many traditions under pressure from notions of secular modernity. As such, Farhat has not followed certain subtexts which were subsumed into Pakistani society in the 1980s, but has chosen a more secularly ethereal approach in defining Pakistani identity, the quest for which has managed to perplex for nearly six decades.  Espousing poetry which exhort the freedom of expression, which highlight gender empowerment, and which propose spirituality, has served as Farhat’s act of defiance. Studying the classism of the poems and using the forms of the Arabic script, while giving the superficial impression of safely traditional aesthetics, are in fact Farhat’s journey into further abstraction; by casting words and letters as visual elements, she has transferred poetry’s dynamism and melodic power into conceptual and visual energies.At the Sharjah Museum, her most recent museum solo show, Farhat paired the female figure with text, positing that representation and abstraction can act as nemeses. These figures were abstracted down to their pure form, devoid of features and hair, and were thus disengaged from their usual burden of identity. Farhat wanted this disengagement to depict her interpretation of what she sees as the nexus binding a mind to a soul. For her current solo exhibition, Farhat has continued this theme, albeit using wall installations she has playfully termed Speech Bubbles. Farhat’s Speech Bubbles use the geometrically manipulated forms of the alphabet, taken from her reasoned choice of poetry, to create various modular configurations, the result being that this body of work now firmly lies in the domain of conceptual abstraction.(Ali Bagherzadeh)