Text | Mariam Qureshi
Visuals | Courtesy Artist
Submissive Self “Soil reminds us of our humble origins and the clay figures in my work represent humility as they are bent or lying in repose in some sort of submission. Just like the chakor bird is known of being entranced by the love for the moon, it’s human counterpart looks up at the sky with immense longing as love is also a form of worship. Similarly, ‘birth’ has been a continuous concept in my art practice, a new beginning, change and transformation. The clay itself transform into a figure, each figure, an individual in it’s own storyline. They appear growing tall out of shells like emerging from a cocoon or drift on the sea on a solo voyage, perhaps a journey within oneself. Everything is in movement, from the drapes on the figures to each wave of the sea, all this signifies the progression of life”. ~Talat Dabir
Artistic creativity comes from a sense of loss and pain; a vacuum – a need to rectify wrongs in oneself and mankind as a whole. Tragedy is less tragic than adversity because adversity is thrown to an individual to test his comic and pathetic foibles; to make the individual realize how weak and frail human nature is. Human caprices and idiosyncrasies can jar the senses. Hence civil behavior is important. An individual has to maintain certain decorum that not only has to be taken seriously but also to live in a community with fellow beings. On the other hand tragedy is a loss at a grander scale which does not necessarily strip one of their ego. But both tragedy and adversity are important in the act of engendering art. But greater art is borne out of adversity, because one can get intimidated by one’s own introspection of one’s own self. On the other hand tragedy is dramatic and human foibles can be covered by a façade of a very substantial and real loss. Great artists succumb to creativity not out of real tragedies, rather the frightful demons of their minds.
The demons of their minds could be as petty as sitting in a posh dining restaurant and eating expensive food rather than squatting near a dirty road side and enjoying a samosa. The quality of a cake the artist eats can move the world and his own sensibilities. The act of eating humble food in the so-called ‘civilized society’ can be a traumatic experience and can convert a sane, civilized person into a mad artist. Hence, art making is as important as a catharsis – to vomit out the crudities hidden under the façade of civilization and social etiquette. Art today takes this concept; ‘vomiting out crudities as an artistic self-expression’ has taken a very grotesque shape. Often nowadays, art is no longer graceful but instead it has become “fashionable” to give a crude and vulgar expression to these demons of the mind: the more jarring the image is, the more impact it has. Although this aspect is suitable in some cases, I feel an artist with superior sensibility would not use this trait as a crutch. For such an artist, the process of art making is a graceful act. One such artist is Talat Dabir. Talat Dabir is one of Pakistan’s most exquisite artists, whose main focus is clay sculptures. I feel that Talat’s sculptures are superior to many artists of her generation because they have certain propriety in them. Often dealing with the human anatomy, her figures are androgynous and the aspects of their body which determine their sexuality are often covered or are not defined. Being an artist thriving in our society, she believes that a certain degree of modesty should be expressed in the process of art making. Her recent sculptures deal with clay figurines in tranquility, juxtaposed next to a body of water. Usually her figurines are either fixed next to some natural element or object. The objects represent innuendos of the artist’s subconscious mind. Although the subconscious can be represented in a dark and grotesque art, Talat avoids that. She doesn’t use short cuts to appeal to the senses of the viewer. She aims to please the viewer using objects like fishes, shells, waves of water and animals placed next to or on the anatomy. The objects do not necessarily have to be sexual in nature; they could represent dilemmas in the artist, such as the fear of failure or some aspect of the artist’s life that saddens her. Talat’s art is beautiful because it is humble. All her figures also represent humility because they are bent or lying in repose and in some sort of worship. Perhaps worship of the soil with which all mankind is made and also of which the artists creates her art. But the question arises: would Talat’s art be more superior if it was self-confidant? Maybe not, because it defies the norm persistently and goes against the current of water to accede to gimmick and shortcuts in art. Hence, when she sculpts water she is talking about subtle defiance in a persuasive and gentle manner rather than through violence and hostility.