11 October, 2011

Reflecting Age of Neo-Colonialism through Art

Published in Pakistan Observer (11 Oct. 2011)
Sana Jamal

Islamabad – Since Art is considered a reflection of the society, the changing times and consequential circumstances seem to have greatly influenced the artists of our times. One such artist is Amin Rehman, who excels in employing textual expression in his artwork. Amin’s latest art exhibition titled ‘White Wash: Art in the Age of Neo-Colonialism’ opened at Rohtas Art Gallery in Islamabad on Monday.

The exhibition was inaugurated by Canadian High Commissioner Ross Hynes and his spouse Madame Vanessa Hynes, who greatly appreciated the work of the artist. The exhibit attracted scores of art lovers from the city particularly foreign diplomats, because the art show has something different to offer. Amin has used text as a language for his paintings, literally using sentences as the subject of his artwork. And that’s what makes the artwork unique as compared to other art exhibitions where the viewers appear perplexed while trying to decipher the obscured meaning behind the artist’s endeavor.


The line “Imperialism does not stop being necessary just because it become politically incorrect” and most of the other phrases in the artworks make it clear that the subject explored in the artwork is global capitalism, which may be considered as boon for some, but the artist believed that the system has created sharp disparities in the lives of people across the globe in the age of globalization.

Talking to Pakistan Observer, the Canadian Pakistani artist, Amin Rehman told that he has made use of the power of language and textual expression to alter personal ideologies through language translation. His works advanced from simple transcription of random thoughts, to conscious actions upon text to embody a different content instead of invoking the conventional and problematic ‘meanings’. “By investigating the use of neo-colonial language, Perso-Arabic scripts and intertwining Islamic Calligraphy with English, I take despotic identity into a contemporary art practice” Amin said.

“Whoever kills a soul for a soul it is as if he has slain mankind entirely and whoever saves one it is as if he has saved mankind entirely” reads another of striking artwork by Amin. Using the palimpsest (a manuscript that has been written on more than once, with the earlier writing partially legible) technique, the artist challenges the viewers to decipher the text layers especially in his artwork bearing the titles: ‘Salvador Option’, ‘Friendly Fire’, ‘Trace of Blood’, ‘All Americans’, ‘Whoever Kills a Soul’, ‘Global Empire’, and ‘Dual State’. The work is also suggestive of graphic and informational strategies reused in American pop art in the 1960’s. The White Wash series using encaustic, acrylic, digital, and neon text is a synthesis in the use of language and textual expression, “to provide an artistic reconsideration and a rethinking of my cultural past and present.”

Explaining the nature of his work, Amin added that, “my recent work provides me with an opportunity to rethink my own cultural past and present interest in the phraseology of neo-colonialism and globalization, while not losing sight of the central question: why does the geo-political situation of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border matter?” This explains that how the ideas of the artists as depicted in their artworks have been greatly influenced by the geo-political changes in our surrounding.