Everything is Happening At Once – Rashid Rana
Every generation has thought it lives in the golden age of image making, however what is unique about this moment in time is the sheer number of images surrounding us in our daily lives. Some researchers have found that we can easily be exposed to over 3,000 each day, yet we barely glance at most of them. This exhibition examines this phenomenon, and along the way looks at the stereotypes we deploy to make sense of the world through themes of gender politics, violence and the authencity of global mass media.
Everything is Happening At Once, is the first major UK public solo exhibition by internationally acclaimed artist Rashid Rana. Who?, you may ask. Well, although he is largely unknown the UK, Rana enjoys a global recognition alongside Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin, and his work fetches global prices.
His work is inspired by the miniature paintings found across Pakistan and India from the time the Mughal empire, an art form which started in China and travelled the region into Persian Iran and beyond, a reminder that the global nature of image making is not a modern phenomenon. During the 1990’s, artists in Pakistan started arguing that the miniature paintings being producing were simply creating an illusion of tradition and a fake connection with the past. This theme of challenging the idealised landscape is one that recurs throughout the exhibition.
Rana’s work is firmly rooted in modern day Lahore, a city once called ‘the Paris of the east’, a city which full of tales of invasions by various nations such as the Greek, the Persians, the Hindu, the Muslim, the Sikh and the British, who all contributed in the splendor as well as spoliation of the city. Modern day Lahore is at the same time surrounded by both the grandeur of the Mughal Empire, and the trashing images from American and Indian pop and consumerist cultures.
As one walks through the two floors of the exhibition, one is led respectfully through the ideas and struggles that layer an artists mind from this city. The struggles between secularism and the Islamic state, the struggles between wealth and poverty, between modernisation and tradition. Although Rana is a photographer, his work is often three dimensional, and often the smaller image struggle with the larger image. This flow between the duality of images and thoughts reminded me of the work of James Joyce, another artist who based his work firmly in one city.
In each peice of work you think you are seeing the beauty of Lahore’s cultural life, but on closer inspection they are shown the visual complexity of modern day Pakistan. In Red Carpet (2007) a first glance, the image looks like a beautiful Islamic rug, but on closer inspection the image is composed with blood and gore from a Lahore slaughterhouse. According to Rana, the composition was put together after the assassination Benazir Bhutto in 2007. In the The World is not Enough (2006-2007), a colorful abstract painting is really a large-scale photograph of a landfill.
As one enters the gallery you immediately see a three dimensional structure, “Desperately Seeking Paradise”, (2010) a shiny large installation that contains lots of tiny prints. Together they become a view of a city, from another view it has a mirror effect and if you go close you see tiny pictures of buildings, streets and rooms.
Rana obviously pays close attention to the composition, the surface, scale, dimension, and the architectural lines. This attention to detail has ensured that work he creates become a stylish and poetic composition.
The New Art Exchange have begun 2012 with lovely exhibition which appeals at many levels. I took along a bunch of ten and twelve year olds to the opening launch party, who only came for the ice cream at Yumi Ice Cream Parlour, (best ice cream in Hyson Green) but left inspired, and you don’t often get a chance to talk about misogyny and secularism to ten and twelve year olds.
Everything is Happening At Once is on now until the 31st March 2012.
For further details go to the New Art Exchange