Tiny black specks spread like wild multiplying ants, across desolate landscapes, up pillars, into oceans, swarming the canvases and seemingly leaping up the walls of the gallery Latitude 28 till it sinks to the equator-- in the jarring glare of the sun the voice of truth, an alarming illumination of the violence and isolation that has consumed the world and left it brittle and crumbling. Kazi Nasir’s foreboding art utilizes a man-made medium—acrylics—to portray the destruction of man and all that he has made. The artist issues a warning in the form of a landscape devoid of any life save for a bent anonymous man who assumes the role of martyr, medium, signal.
The artist’s use of primary colors and hues of black signifies a society stripped bare and on the verge of apocalypse. In particular, the triptych ‘Cocoon’ is fascinating—featuring the artist asleep and leaning on an office chair in the centre of the composition. The sky is separated from the ocean by a thin line and a very subtle change in hue and the black cloud that forms in the first panel subsides as it travels onwards through the second and onto the third. Speech bubbles crying for help appear as golden thunderbolts in the far distance, but nobody answers.
A deconstructed screen appears in the first of the canvases, assuming a similar composition to the man in the second and finally turns in on itself and begins to disintegrate in the third. In the far distance where the sea meets the sky, a lone black ship appears. This same shape recurs across paintings—as the title, "Isolation, Black Ship, Etc." suggests—appearing as the signifier of a failed search. These props or archetypal figures appear frequently, creating a conceptual narrative thread as well as an aesthetic visual pattern. The rose—a popular symbol of beauty and cruelty—rendered in blue, yellow and red, is another such prop. Akin to the ship that appears stagnant, the rose always appears closed; tight petals yearning to bloom. Such stereotypical images do run the risk of simplifying the complex and netted issues of war and violence, but it is this almost naïve, faintly-lined, muted-hue quality of the paintings that render them magically realist, even romantic.
These existential landscapes of trauma and destruction where humans and machines alike seek no end and find no meaning are somehow redeemed by the precision of Nasir’s technical skill. Painstakingly speckled with a thin-point miniaturist’s paintbrush, Nasir seems to imagine complete control in his hand, and therefore in action and finally in destiny. If we control our fates, then we have the power to transform a muted horizon without possibility to one resplendent and brimming with potential. The black, burgeoning spots could each bear fresh, ripe, fruitful seed with practiced agency.
-- Himali Singh Soin
(All images courtesy of Latitude 28 and the artist.)