In the past months, Wardha Shabbir has been working on a new installation in the courtyard of the former Bonnefanten School in Hasselt. Due to the rather limited possibilities in terms of artistic development in Pakistan, Shabbir only recently started incorporating installations into her oeuvre. FLACC is pleased to be able to make possible her further exploration of this expressive form, and in this way, stimulate her artistic development.
The work of Pakistani artist Wardha Shabbir contains many mythological and art historical references, derived from both Pakistani and Western culture. She makes use of traditional (painting) techniques, including miniature painting, which she combines, in part, with a Western visual language. This, in combination with her attempt to set up a Western-oriented art and cultural dialogue in her country, distinguishes her from traditional local painters. She brings problematic local and political situations to the attention. As a female artist, she raises questions with regard to the situation in her country; a country in which corruption and the oppression of women are still commonplace.
For her, the evolution of man is running backward; man is becoming not less, but increasingly more, animal-like. Civilization is abandoned in favour of more primitive attitudes. All of this is obviously related to the political destabilisation that has occurred in Pakistan in recent years, in which ultra-traditionalist religious groups have gained increasingly more power, yet have also become increasingly more violent. This is illustrated in her work through the prolific use of half-human, half-animal figures, which invariably seem to exude an air of wildness or ferocity (reminiscent of Hieronymus Bosch). She uses botanical references, and infuses them with meanings, much like in the work of Breughel or in 16th century still lifes. Aspects of divinity are also depicted, often in the form of circles, trees, or rebirth (phoenix). In her work, the artist manipulates the viewer’s perception, presenting images that seem lovely at first, yet upon closer inspection, turn out to be veritable atrocities.