Body of Work

In his latest set of autobiographical works, Pakistani artist Ali Kazim has two portraits where his back is turned to the viewer. In the larger narrative of recent events involving India and Pakistan, the art on display at Mumbai's Jhaveri Contemporary could well seem metaphorical, the way the artist decides to detach himself from his disturbed surroundings.

But in his second exhibition in the country (the first one was in Delhi in 2008), Kazim is more interested in exploring the lonely man, which, in this case, happens to be him. For some time, he has been musing over the naked male body (mostly portrayed from above the waistline). He continues to do so. "I still haven't exhausted the use of the body in my work. I feel that its figurative content is continually evolving," says Kazim in an email interview. He could not accompany his works ó he was denied a visa.

A big leap in his work, however, has been the progression towards self-portraits ó a practice he picked up during his recent stint at the Slade School of Fine Art in London. "I am no longer interested in using a model. For the work I am currently doing, it would be difficult to get emotionally involved in the process if I were to use a model," says the 34-year-old artist, who once painted cinema hoardings in the small town of Pattoki in the Punjab province of Pakistan.

One aspect of his work, which Kazim has almost developed as his signature style, is his distinct canvas material and the importance he attaches to it. Water colour pigments, textured papers, Japanese tissue, leather ó Kazim's materials are prime players in his paintings, their perceptible, tactile grains adding psychological depths to his portraits. "I feel that the thematic concerns of the work are strengthened greatly through a careful selection and use of materials. They help me explore the human body in a more expressive way," he says.

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