Shahzia Sikander: Mirror Plane and Orbit

Edition Review

  • Shahzia Sikander, Mirror Plane (2012)

  • Orbit (2012)

  • Color direct gravure etchings, 36 x 29 1/2 inches each. Editions of 35. Printed and published by Crown Point Press, San Francisco, CA. $2500 each.

Shazia Sikander’s art is one of assimilation—the integration of incongruent parts into something coherent, though not homogenous. This happens on multiple levels: the technical (she trained in traditional miniature painting in Pakistan but is also well-known as a video and installation artist); the personal (a Muslim woman navigating an art world deeply suspicious of living cultures infused with religion); and the formal (she plucks from both the Western and Southeast Asian art historical canons, interlacing her findings with abstract gestures and tidy figurations of her own invention.)

Shazia Sikander, Mirror Plane (2012).

Shazia Sikander, Mirror Plane (2012).

When she first worked at Crown Point a decade ago, the prints she made were clean composites of a handful of disparate images in translucent layers: it was easy to play them backwards in one’s head, separating the image into its component plates. This time around, the prints are bigger, denser and messier. The manipulation of scale that first drew her to miniature painting is given room for play. Some of the elements are repeated from earlier work, some have been subjected to digital manipulation, some are hand drawn; all are articulated through eloquent etching technique.

Mirror Plane toys with symmetry and planes of reflection; the central standing figure exhibits the left/right bilateral expected of the species, but is mirrored top/bottom by its own spectre, skull-topped in grey. This double figure stands within a flurry that might be wings or might be nimbus, but what look to be feathers also resemble fists and what looks to be ornamental gesture might also double as calligraphy. Meanwhile, behind this complex central arrangement, lines of small black and grey images march by like an indecipherable rebus or syllabary of a lost language.

Orbit is even more complex, with wheels and trumpets, twining vines and crystalline polygons, entranching ornament and anguished figures, beautifully drawn. The various parts swirl together while retaining clear edges. The point is not to deny distinctions, but to, in the artist’s words, “articulate their shifting nature.”

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