Uncertain ends / serrated edges in Farzana Ahmed Urmi's ‘Known Unknown’
Farzana Ahmed Urmi's Known Unknown distributes the self into manifold sexually and spiritually ambiguous selves. One encounters a series of portraitures where the self is realized/reconstructed through a proto-expressionistic process by departing from reality to reveal a number of states of being including a few near-enigmatic projections of the self.
The established notion of genre – especially the ones we perceive as antagonistic to one another – for example, abstraction and figuration – is treated as equal setting forth a language that swings between fierce looking portraitures and fluid patterns that rest within an abstract composition.
As the borders between genres are breached, so is the way an image is made to form into being. Urmi violates the very constitution of the objects or figures represented by freeing them of their recognizable formal shell or structure. Formlessness explored to freight both 'fright and fragmentation' associated with modern life seems to have served as an important strategy by which to unmake the made or mess up the given order found in the 'thingness' of a two dimensional work. Accordingly, confronted with the mixed-medium works on paper of modest sizes, as are Gaza 2, 3, 4 and 5; or those that are huge and are on canvases, such as Known Unknown 12, one gets the sense that the corporeal constantly collides with the atrophied psychic condition. They gel into a process which leads to a fluid aesthetic stratagem. In Urmi's world things are not things in themselves but a reflection of the 'state of being'.
If Urmi's project is somewhat inconsistent at different levels of articulation, it is because her art is about observing the consequences of dematerialization, or disfiguration of the chosen motif in the very constituency of her paintings. Thus, she fails to find a structured means to freight her images. If it is about the disoriented, displaced, and even the attenuated self that we try to redeem on a daily basis after our disquieting encounter(s) with reality which often verges on the absurd, then the unevenness of her linguistic expression becomes self-explanatory.
Yet, the 'entropic violence that has no beginning and no end', to borrow Benjamin's expression, neither finds a collaborator, nor an objector in Urmi who is absorbed in a world of self-dislocation and self-degeneration and is driven by impulses that arrive from the unknown ravine between the social and the individual self.
To escape the entropy that constantly undermines human efforts to restructure reality as we attempt at reinventing the mode(s) of social relations or/and living, the artist plunges, with conscious effort, into the disorderly to mirror the horror alongside the ambiguous.
Body/self in many of its attenuated state – frayed, fragmented, and even plain ghastly – is made to appear in painterly images, perhaps to reveal a set of emotions. Between the grotesque and the sublime lies the space where Farzana Urmi comfortably treads without ever exploring the extreme ends. The entropy observed outside is translated into the 'idiom of the psyche' and is expressed in its layers of existential entanglements. May be painting is for her a process of reorganizing the self-body-mind complex. In works under the series Known Unknown, the tendency to preoccupy oneself with painting as a process of examining the 'self' is most discernible.
The images where things become a bit restful, one becomes aware that the artist is exploring the medium she studied, which is printmaking, as a sense of control over the formal scheme is demonstrated. Lines in Mood – the entire series asks of the viewer to slow down while walking through the gallery spaces. Though they carry both the strains of mental disquietude and sobriety, they are of a formal category which makes one inspect the surface with a certain degree of resignation.
To end on a critical note, one is compelled to raise one's eye-brows reading through the preface by Javed Jalil, where among other hard-to-define expressions one stumbles upon the idea of 'copulated state of another visual experience', which leaves one speculating whether it is the 'othered' voicing the 'unknown' experience/knowledge entrenched in the very essence of 'otherness'?
'Known Unknown' ran its course from October 16 to October 23, 2014, at now defunct Dhaka Art Center.
PHOTO COURTESY: DEPART AND THE ARTIST