Bren O’ Callaghan, Cornerhouse Visual Arts Programme Manager, talks to Rashid Rana about his stunning, multi-faceted work in Everything Is Happening At Once.
Rashid Rana’s art challenges traditional perceptions of the photographic image via a kaleidoscopic eye-view; combining multiplicity, layered intent, abstraction and three-dimensional form. Culminating in the reveal in Gallery 3 of the dazzling mirror-box and city panorama of Desperately Seeking Paradise 2, the journey is one that requires the viewer to look once, blink, clear the mind and then look again. Rashid’s work races ahead at full speed but also is becalmed in static contemplation. The artist himself explains this seemingly contradictory sense of push and pull.
“Today, every image, idea and truth (ancient or media generated) encompasses its opposite within itself,” says Rana from his studio in Pakistan. “We live in a state of duality. The perpetual paradox, which reigns the outside world, is a feature for the internal self also. This internal conflict pervades nearly any topic I choose to explore.” Working across multiple media including photography and video installation, Rashid Rana reaches beyond geographical boundaries to reflect the world at large; combining pop culture, identity, faith, urbanisation, politics of gender and nationalism.
Pakistani critic Quddus Mirza has written, “[Rashid’s] work is a mark of a global language, which is understood worldwide, yet spoken with a particular accent.”
“I have never been conscious of where I am, but have never completely evaded where I live either,” Rana states. When questioned as to the relevance of his home base of Lahore, which features as a seemingly endless source of palette-images (similar in many regards to a primary spectrum of paint, blended and cropped to create nuance and tint), he offers further clarification. “I don’t deny its presence but until now I have not made a work that is strictly based on ‘Lahore’ alone. It intermingles with many other references.”
“As I’m based here most of my visual experiences and references are from my surroundings, both immediate physical surroundings and images that are part of a global collective experience. Because of means of communication today that ‘virtual’ experience is something I also regard as my surroundings.”
Cutting across conventional notions of scale, Rana does not pursue form or technique alone at the expense of emotion or intention, but it is certainly noticeable throughout his current exhibition at Cornerhouse, as mosaics, pixellated approaches and abstract reduction. His cuboid photo sculptures incorporating such items as vases of flowers, newspapers, books and even an empty plinth, sit on the razor-edge of comprehension: far-regressed yet still firmly identifiable.
Rana’s repeat foundation of an underlying grid is similar in this regard to a fishing net, its apertures no wider than a camera lens so that not even the tiniest observation escapes his catch.