Mixed Emotions

Artist Fariba Alam’s first solo show in the country reflects fractured memories of her family and fascination for Islamic architecture

Written by Pallavi Chattopadhyay | Published:December 20, 2013 12:25 am

When New York-based artist Fariba Alam thinks of her father,she is reminded of the suits,ties and pocket squares that were packed away when he died. She has given form to these images in her mixed media work titled A Million Goodbyes. It is part of an exhibition “Lace of Stars” at Shrine Empire Gallery in Delhi,which is a preview of a forthcoming exhibition in Mumbai. Silk handkerchiefs,cravat-like,hang suspended from the ceiling. They form shadows to echo memories of a loved one,if one were to look to the stars. Each silk swatch bears black-and-white images — of a heron perched on a branch,a wing,and an eye of a bird. This is Alam’s way of emoting the loss of a loved one. “It shows the fracture of the body and memory with time,” says Alam,whose parents had migrated from Bangladesh to the US in the late ’50s.

A photograph of the heron on a tree makes an appearance in another work called Lacuna,which is surrounded by tiles decorated with blue geometric patterns. “I shot this photograph in Indonesia. The body of the bird represents the feminine spirited figure,which is hopping,grasping and moving continually,” she says.

In Alam’s black-and-white photographic work Lace of Stars,two women pose in a garden even as a child plays in the grass. “This image was taken by my father in the late 1960s in Boston. It’s an image that stays with me,even if I’m not looking at it. Hence,you can see geometric lines and fragments that run off the corner,” she says. Alam’s inclination towards fine arts began when as a child,she saw a painting her parents made; they were scientists. But it was in 1999 when she won the Fulbright Fellowship for a photography project in Bangladesh that her journey in the field of visual arts began.

Alam’s first solo show in the country comprises eight mixed media works that incorporate photography,projection mapping,textile and tile installation. Her fascination and love for Islamic architecture emerges in her use of tiles and geometric patterns. “I love the glossy surface of tiles,the solidity,and the ability to serialise squares or create a pattern and symmetry simply by rotating a tile over and over again. I often study tiling patterns and blueprint the shell of a piece before I begin a work,” says the 37-year-old artist.

pallavi.chattopadhyay@expressindia.com

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