Tag Archives: Mahreen Zuberi

Tussle Magazine Reviews Mahreen Zuberi

Mahreen Zuberi, Mapping (2), 2023, Gouache and pencil drawing on wasli, 10″ x 12″

Beyond the Surface

On Mahreen Zuberi’s Exercising the Border

At Anita Roger’s Gallery, NY

By Joanna Seifter

Meaning, an immaterial concept, is only made perceptible when merged with form, a material object–meaning’s diametric opposite. When an idea marries a surface, it creates a painting, a physical manifestation of the artist’s vision and insight. In turn, it can inspire countless meanings with audiences now and forever, inhibited to the surface’s length and width. But what if these restrictions are mitigated, even obliterated, unleashing meaning into the corporeal world in infinite directions?

These are the impenetrable concepts made accessible by “is/is not” and “in between 1/8”, the first two works featured in contemporary painter Mahreen Zuberi’s latest entry at Anita Rogers Gallery, “Exercising the Border”. Zuberi’s manifesto, deftly synthesizing metaphysical theory and poetry with fine art, is a fitting introduction to her solo show, a quietly momentous rumination on the relationship between artist and environment and the limitless potential of creativity when unfettered from imposed constraints.

The exhibition’s first illustrative painting, “is/is not (i)”, succinctly and brilliantly establishes a visual foundation that Zuberi and her audience can apply to her other works. “is/is not (i)” presents an austere, off-white rectangle on a sheet of A4 paper. “A piece of paper has 4 vertices joined by 4 lines that define its space,” proclaims text adjacent to the rectangle. Inside the rectangle reads, “Anything within the lines is paper,” establishing the shape as the surface’s focal point, a biosphere confined between the 4 vertices and 4 lines. Immediately underneath the preceding sentence and on the perimeter of the rectangle states, “Anything outside the lines is not paper,” eliminating the negative space entirely.

Each painting in Zuberi’s haunting “Crossing Over” series features geometric clusters of stars in an inky sky accented by a thick, blindingly white border, a simple yet strikingly stunning image. The borders do not outline the stars’ contours, nor do they contain them the way picture frames protect photographs. Rather, they overlap the star clusters as the forms trickle past them. When implementing Zuberi’s guidelines from “is/is not (i)”, the space surrounding the overlapping shapes and the frame is the physical world beyond the artist’s eye, the “not paper.”

The shapes’ continuance outside their white borders expands the seemingly self-contained frame, the immaterial “paper,” into the worldly realm. “Crossing Over (5)” ia a membranous structure made of stars underscores this point, suggesting its permeability. Zuberi also explores this thematic thread in her “Mapping” series. Each painting invokes colonial cartography (including aged paper and detailed studies of local fauna) while cleverly subverting its purpose (the series of lines that would ordinarily distinguish regions are fragmented, replacing divided territories with unified land), calling the arbitrarily restrictive nature of borders into question.

Like the lines in “Mapping”, “Crossing Over’s” frames also presents a series of directional lines invoking architectural drawings of three-point perspective, each of which begins outside the white border and elongates past the works’ perimeter. Zuberi also includes these lines in her “Limits” series, geometric forms atop multi-axis graphs. “The lines that stop at the edge of the paper extend beyond infinitely when extended into the imagination,” she explains in “Limit 1/8”. These directional lines are also present in Zuberi’s “Borders” series, which, like “Crossing Over”, also features starry skies. Unlike Crossing Over, Borders’ white structures vary in width, stretching from painting to painting. The frames in “Borders” resemble the negative space in film strips–ostensibly a sequence of vignettes–capturing a specific duration, implying that “Borders” is a continuous narrative as opposed to isolated images.

Series like “Borders” are a conduit to employ Zuberi’s artistic and philosophical framework to our conceptualization of time itself. “The night sky allows us to see the many pasts in cohesion,” writes Zuberi in “Possibilities 1/8”. “By developing the capacity to practice pushing borders we may find that within the limit is that which is unlimited.” “Exercising the Border” reflects Mahreen Zuberi’s keen ability to represent time surpasses intervals or even life cycles–her artworks, small in scale yet immensely powerful in scope, encompass billions of years, traversing the past, present and whatever the future may.

Kolaj Art Features Mahreen Zuberi: Exercising the Border

Installation view of Mahreen Zuberi: Exercising the Border

Photo by Jon-Paul Rodriguez

Anita Rogers Gallery is pleased to present Exercising the Border, a solo exhibition of new works on paper by Pakistani artist Mahreen Zuberi. The exhibition will be on view from February 1 through March 11, 2023 at 494 Greenwich Street, GFL, New York, NY 10013.

Zuberi was born in 1981 in Karachi, Pakistan. She completed her Bachelor of Fine Arts with distinction at the National College of Arts, Lahore, specializing in miniature painting with minors in printmaking and photography. Her work has been featured in solo and group exhibitions including in Karachi, Islamabad, Milan, Dubai, and Morocco. Zuberi’s new compositions on wasli, handmade paper in use since the tenth century, are geometrically precise and yet open-ended as the night sky. In the artist’s own words:

We can measure the speed at which light travels by measuring how long it takes for it to travel from one point to another. The light from the sun takes 8.3 minutes to travel to Earth. Light travels approximately 6 million miles in one year. This is called a light year. The light from Proxima Centauri, the closest star to the sun, takes over 4 light years to reach us. The light from Deneb, the brightest star we can see with our naked eye, takes 1500 light years.  

The stars as we see them in the night sky are in the state in which they were 4 to 1500 years ago. We know that in the temporal realm time moves forward. It is not possible to see the past. However the stars, as we see them in the night sky are dioramas emanating from a distant past. 

In the night sky the distance between our eye and the many stars is not singular. The light emitted from the various stars reaches us in different numbers of light years. When we gaze up into the night sky we are witnessing events that are happening in many different temporalities, as a singular event. The night sky allows us to see the many pasts in cohesion. Time as we perceive it in the sensory or physical world is disrupted because of the very laws that govern it:

1) that light travels and 2) that the distance between our naked eye and an object emitting and reflecting light determines when we will see it. 

Though the limits of the sensory world are tied up in the laws that govern it, the positioning of the stars in the cosmos is a reminder that even within the fixed are possibilities that defy the limits set by the material world. By developing the capacity to practice pushing borders we may find that within the limits is that which is unlimited. 

For further information and photographs, please contact Elizabeth Thompson at elizabeth.thompson@anitarogersgallery.com, or call 347.604.2346. The gallery is open Tuesday through Saturday 10am – 6pm.

View on Kolaj Art

Insider’s Edition: Art events not to miss!

Installation image of Mahreen Zuberi: Exercising the Border

Insider’s Edition: Art events not to miss!

Compiled by Avalon Ashley Bellos


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