by Rob Warren |
As genetically alike as humans are, there is an inherent difference between us. Different in that we each perceive life from our own unique standpoint. On occasion we may find agreement on each other’s perceptions but more often than not our views of life collide; from agreeing to disagree, to a complete rejection of opinion. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the middle of an eclectic city, where the sights and sounds of the daily commute can stir a whole host of contradictory feelings.
This week sees the opening of artist Ali Tareen’s latest exhibition, Absurdity. Presented in the medium of black and white drawings, Tareen confronts the day-to-day hows and whys head on. From the wild and wonderful to the bizarre and banal, using a mix of human/animal hybrid imagery, we are gifted a look into a world of contrast, role reversal and stereotype.
Tareen is a native of London, UK. As a first generation Anglo-Pakistani, growing up in the cultural melting pot of East London, he approaches his subject matter from a unique angle. An angle, which influenced by his urban youth, focuses (according to Tareen) on ‘the existential relationships of the mundane [...] Outdated template systems [that humans subscribe to] in order to control and conform society’. It is the absurdity of conformity where Tareen finds inspiration; the ignorant satisfaction of sheepish acceptance. Tareen is playing with ideas, inspiring his audience to think, to consider. After all, absurdity is something we all feel.
The use of black ink on a stark white background helps to isolate Tareen’s characters from their surroundings. One piece depicts a man with a dog’s head riding the metro. Shoulder bag and copy of John-Paul Sartre’s Iron in the Soul in hand, the “man dog” gazes skyward, an expression of worry fills his wide puppy eyes. Perhaps just a syndrome of the metro malaise, Tareen somehow captures the feeling that so many of us encounter, as we are shunted from station to station like deliveries of cattle.
All the pieces illustrate theriocephalic creatures or “parahumans”, which adds a puzzling yet understandable element to the idea of absurdity. At first glance these chimeras represent a reversal of animal/human roles; a pair of rat scientists experiment on their human subject, or a majestic wild cat as he dons a double breasted business suit whilst ashing his cigar. Other drawings, however, do not follow this pattern; a proud lizard, nose aloft with hands tucked into his jean pockets, or an eagle-headed man stood in a room adorned with clocks, give little clue as to their real life connection with the absurd.
Whether deliberate or not, it is at this point where Tareen’s work grows from its own confines. This does not confuse the exhibition’s topic. If anything it adds to it, helping the audience to broaden their view of the relationships between animals and humans. Perhaps questioning how different we really are from our primitive ancestors?
Like all art forms, the only way to understand the true meaning of it is to know the artist and their intentions. However, even with the right knowledge, our perceptions will always differ. Tareen’s depictions of the absurd are “re-depicted” by each new pair of eyes that sees them. We may never know the thoughts that helped conjure the image. Instead we can, as did Tareen, delve into our mind’s eye and pull out whatever visions lie within, no matter how absurd they may be.
Tareen has presented numerous shows, mainly in London and Barcelona. Opened on Monday April 16th, Absurdity is his second Prague appearance. Bar No.7 in Prague’s New Town is hosting the show and it will remain open until May 13th.
Those of you with any questions for the artist can reach him by e-mail at: