In her debut solo show Seemab Zaheera has chosen an appropriate theme expressing the trauma of youth, the uncertainties of life and the enduring pursuit of goals. Refusing to don the rose-tinted glasses so characteristic of her years, she has taken in the world around her, very aware of the tragedies that may come to pass. There is a story woven into every work with the trials of youth grabbing the spotlight.
Having graduated in Fine Arts from Stella Maris College, Chennai and pursuing the practice of art under the guidance of artist AV Ilango, her works are satiated with metaphorical expression. Seemab's works are situated in the varied aspects of early life hwere the darkened figure, the silhouette, takes the position of the protagonist who has a tale to tell.
With a predilection towards the use of paper to create textured collages, mixed media serves as the means of her expression. The role of paper is further corroborated by its importance in contemporary living. The individual's existence on paper is undeniable for throughout our lives we leave a paper trail - from the birth certificate to the death certificate. The evidence of one's existence is bound to paper, establishing one's identity within a structured society. And yet, what is this identity we seek through our degree certificates, passports and ration cards - the individuality or otherwise of being one more graduate, one more citizen among millions, or just another inhabitant of a defined geographical space?
Seemab's works are on a paper base worked with sand and acrylic paints. The surface of each canvas has been variously built up in layers creating a metaphorical allusion to the undulating threads of though that have been stitched together to form the tapestry of anxiety that unfolds in these works. Revealing a perceptive approach to her environment the artists' psyche is enmeshed within the theme, she herself having been through the very motions in her learning days. Silhouettes provide a means of generalisation for these works and are not intended to be viewed strictly as a personal expression but as voicing a societal consideration - the enamour of education which is currently being taken to the extreme in the Indian context, where mere numbers in the guise of marks and percentages can make or break one's life. Pages torn from text and notebooks emphasise the obsession.
Her melancholic view of education and the path that follows is implicit in the sombre colourations that speak from her works. The large silhouette that exemplifies the individual stands gravely, stoically facing the world and all its vices. And yet all the world is not a grim place, for kites signifying aspiration fly skyward and laddres figuratively lead to different paths, different possibilities. A photocopied certificate of a degree in art becomes a kite alluding to the dreams the artist is chasing armed with the requisite documents, while an uncertain journey is allegorically stated by broken stairways leading towards the light. The presence of light in the centre may be seen as holding out hope in an uncertain world and on closer observation the letters within spell ' seemab '. And yet while some of the images are optimistic the colours are grounded in the depressing reality where importance is attached to stellar academic performance.
Through her works she reiterates that education, which lays claim to one's persona, needs necessarily to go beyond the classroom if it is to be of any consequence. There is always the tendency to peg people into predetermined categories and the eyes that surround a despondent buckled figure portray this. it is the gaze, via marks and percentages, that allows for such judgement.
Seemab explores the multiple layers to an individuals's personality with one's objectives and ambitions getting tangled within the spider's web. This in turn sacntions being jostled like a puppet with the strings pulled by society. Crafted in her mind and by her hands, and sited in her experiences, the awareness of happenings in daily living shows a highly sensitized approach to her expression.
Swapna Satish is a Lecturer in the Department of Fine Arts, Stella Maris College, Chennai. Further to a research degree in Art History from Milton Keynes, UK, she is currently pursuing a PhD at the University of Madras, Chennai. She also serves as an art critic for The Hindu, the national newspaper.