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Saba Qizilbash

Acrylic on Canvas
150×100 cm

For many years now, I have been dealing with the aesthetics of an ‘inherited wardrobe’. This concern has been resurfacing in my works and manifests itself in either subtle or obvious ways. From actual fabric installations to assemblages to painted still-lifes, I find myself returning to this theme.
In my current series, The Empress’ New Clothes, articles of clothing from my personal wardrobe engage in confrontational, sarcastic, submissive and aggressive dialogue with its audience. I create these installations in my studio after rummaging through my closet. Using various improvised armatures and structures, I let these fabric installations settle as gravity plays its quintessential role. I then paint the final compositions immersing myself in the act of painting.
Disembodied clothing in my works highlight the presence of my heroine even with her absence. My heroine mocks gender constraints with patience, social expectations with exaggerated compliance. As a Pakistani woman raised to follow certain conservative norms of my society, I am attempting to explore the idea of dominance and subjugation suggested by the kind of clothes we ought to wear. In view of the colonial history of the Indian subcontinent, I am also fascinated by the illustrations of traditional wear that was documented by the British colonial historians. The glorifications of the turban, sari and shalwar suits, feeds into the formal planning of my works.
Some of the outfits that I have used as reference in my work began as part of my mother’s wedding trousseau. The personal associations are rich and emotional. Once adorned, I feel clothes have their own story to tell.
Saba Qizilbash has a BFA (Distinction) from the National College of Arts, Lahore and a MA in Art Education (Honors). She is currently an Adjunct Professor, Department of Visual Communication at the American University in Dubai, UAE.

Image Courtesy | Saba Qizilbash