From Lahore to Boston:’Culture Shock’ | Pakistan Today

From Lahore to Boston:’Culture Shock’

KARACHI – Saba Khan’s work for her Master of Fine Arts degree was a journey between Lahore, her hometown, and Boston, where she was studying. The two cities are bipolar, and the shock of switching from one to the other was a catalyst for ‘Culture Shock’, her first solo show in Karachi that opened at the Canvas Gallery on Tuesday.
The show would be exhibited until January 27, a press release issued by the Canvas Gallery said.
“Before arriving in Boston, my paintings had satirical, cultural nuances of subjects from the elite, ruling class of Pakistan where humorous tools were developed to criticise them. It created an interesting dichotomy because they were also the buyers of their own visual criticism,” Khan said.
Living in Boston, she had to adjust to a more democratic class system, a different kind of sunlight, a greyer colour palate and solid colours, in contrast to heavy patterns that were used as backgrounds for her previous works.
“I felt I knew little about the subtleties of the American culture, but soon realised that it was not as democratic as I had conceived, and started noticing the stark economic distinctions. There was also a constant struggle with preconceived ideas about my region and religion, created by the American media,” she explained.
This led to a chain of paintings in reaction to the prejudices she had encountered, and in return, she painted flat American stereotypes with a blunt humour from the point of view of an outsider.
“The suicide bomber series came about during summer break in Pakistan when I was watching a fresh, unedited video of a bomb explosion on television. There was an image of a decapitated head lying next to a stampede of people. That gory clip remained in my mind.”
A suicide bomber wears a bomb jacket around his waist and when he detonates himself, the body disintegrates while the head remains intact and pops away from the bombsite. It is also used as police evidence for identifying the culprit.
“The motif of a head in the paintings is to come to terms with the devastation and carnage that is going on in the country. I imagine the explosion from his point of view, happily thinking he is shooting off to paradise.”
The artwork featuring in this exhibition includes ‘America’, ‘American Playing with Dog by the Lake’, ‘Apple Picking’, ‘Blast Off’, ‘Cake on a Silver Platter’, ‘Fat American on the Bus’, ‘Funeral’, ‘Happy Marriage’, ‘Homeless on Campus’, ‘Housewife’, ‘Princess’, ‘Selling Crows’, ‘Shooting Off to Paradise’, ‘The Brat’, ‘The Collector’ and ‘The Fat American’.
Photos courtesy Canvas Gallery

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