Two, Not Together

Nurjahan Akhlaq in ArtAsiaPacific:

Two-not-together-series_-relief-print-on-somerset-paper-9_5x9___346Aisha Abid Hussain’s exhibition of recent works, entitled “Two Not Together,” was exhibited at Hanmi Gallery, in London, from August to September in 2014. In this body of work, consisting of photography, video, collage and prints, Abid Hussain delicately rips apart the institution of marriage. A recent graduate of the MFA program at London’s Goldsmiths College, as well as an alumni of the National College of Arts in Lahore (where the artist is based), Abid Hussain gained international recognition for her inclusion in the 2013 Bloomberg New Contemporaries—an annual touring exhibition of recent art graduates in the United Kingdom. A glance at her resume also reveals that she has shown at museum exhibits in New York, Vienna and Delhi, just to name a few.

“Two Not Together” is an exploration of Abid Hussain’s interest in gender and power relations, which are recurring themes within her oeuvre. For the works in the exhibition, however, inspiration came from her family photo archive. The artist claims: “My keen interest in human relationships with one another and to one’s surroundings inspires me hugely. The series is a satire, an attempt to start a debate regarding the institution of marriage. It is an effort to investigate the idea of marriage—is it not becoming a utopian concept in the present time and age?” Making use of a text by Urdu writer Bano Qudsia that frames the Hanmi Gallery show, Abid Hussain quotes the author’s reasons for which a marital contract should be valid in today’s world. For reasons other than having children, Qudsia suggests that a marriage contract should be renewed every two or three years. The artist herself adds that a paper contract for two individuals sealing their romantic commitment to one another is itself an archaic concept. The work in this exhibit uses a variety of media that parody, spurn and scrutinize the conventions of marriage that are specific to cultural context. The relief prints entitled “Two Not Together” (2014) are a remarkable set of works. The original photos that Abid Hussain’s prints are derived from are of her parents’ wedding. Five images, which originally captured moments of festive spectacle and ceremonial splendor, have been stripped of their photographic gloss and saturation and reduced to relief prints. The resulting images are rife with symbolism.

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