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Seema Nusrat examines Karachi’s constantly evolving identity

“A city’s identity is constantly evolving with every political, social and cultural event altering it according to its magnitude,” reads the statement released by the Canvas Gallery for Seema Nusrat’s art exhibition titled ‘Brave New World’ that is running until November 26.

“Sometimes the shift is subtle and is not felt by the inhabitants as they subconsciously accept changes and adapt to the new normal,” continues the statement. “In hindsight we may be able to point out events that left their mark on a city’s character, but perhaps it would be impossible to point out when exactly citizens adjusted their behaviour. When did we become wary of public spaces, less inclusive and more suspicious?

“It is perhaps impossible to find out when we traded walking for the safety of vehicles, raised our walls and put barbed wire over the gate. When did security guards become essential part of the staff in every residential colony and at every institution?

“We increasingly feel less control over the environment and surroundings that we live in and we compensate by putting security infrastructure of several forms, sizes and colours. “Once an occasional occurrence, it has become omnipresent in present-day Karachi. At some point in time, citizens accepted these structures as building blocks of a new form of architecture — a new language! Seema Nusrat’s study of this language examines the culture of security, which has become integral to the architecture of Karachi.

“Two elements of her interests are watchtowers and road blocks, with their zigzag pattern of yellow and black lines reading as caution signs before residential quarters, public spaces and significant institutions — their overwhelming presence and permanence often overshadowing the very architecture that evolved in the surrounding space.”

After getting her Bachelors in Fine Art from Karachi’s Indus Valley School of Art & Architecture (IVSAA) in 2002, Seema got her Masters in Fine Art from Canada’s Nova Scotia College of Art & Design (NSCAD) in Halifax in 2012.

Her solo exhibitions include ‘Body without Body’ at Karachi’s VM Art Gallery, ‘Resuscitate’ at Lahore’s Rohtas II, ‘Traversals NSCAD Thesis Show’ in Canada, ‘New Urban Landscapes’ at Karachi’s Koel Gallery and ‘Proposals Towards a New Architecture’ at Karachi’s AAN Gandhara Art Space.

Her group exhibitions include ‘Emerging Talent’ at the VM Art Gallery, ‘Painting Exhibition’ at Karachi’s Chawkandi Gallery, ‘Artists’ Voices: Body’ and ‘Artists’ Voices: Calligraphy’ at Karachi’s Amin Gulgee Gallery, ‘Edge’ at Rohtas II, ‘4th Fukuoka Asian Art Triennial’ at Japan’s Fukuoka Asian Art Museum in Fukuoka and ‘New Art from Pakistan’ at New York’s Thomas Erben Gallery.

She has also been part of ‘Being There’, ‘Seven Deadly Sins’, ‘Parrhesia II’ and ‘We Ate the Birds’ at the Koel Gallery, ‘Revealing Utopia’ at Italy’s Alberto Peola Gallery in Turin, ‘Fresh Paint/New Construction’ at Canada’s Art Mur Gallery in Montreal, ‘Awaaz Baldia Factory Inferno’ at Karachi’s Arts Council, ‘Rural to Runway’ at Karachi’s Expo Centre and ‘Numaish’ at Karachi’s Frere Hall.

Her works were also on display in ‘Science of Taking a Walk’ at the AAN Gandhara Art Space, ‘Bunting’ at Mumbai’s Chemould Prescott Road, ‘Access Denied’ at Mumbai’s Clark House Initiative, ‘Dak’Art: African Contemporary Art Biennale’ in Senegal, ‘Gateway: Structures of Meaning: Architectures of Perception’ at the Abu Dhabi Art Fair, the Lahore Biennale, ‘Young Sub-Continent Project’ at Goa’s Serendipity Arts Festival, ‘Sweeping Back the Sea: New Contemporary Art from Pakistan’ at New York’s Aicon Gallery and the Karachi Biennale.

She has been in residence at Karachi’s VASL, in Murree, in Khushab, in London, in Japan, in Spain and in India. She has attended the Video Art workshop hosted by Brad and Karen Mirza at VASL, the Theertha International Artists’ Workshop Hantana in Sri Lanka and the Three Island Workshop in Scotland.

She is currently a part of the visiting faculty of IVSAA’s Fine Arts Department. Her work experience includes being a part of the visiting faculty of Szabist’s Media Sciences Department, a teaching assistant at NSCAD and an educational outreach coordinator at VASL.




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