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Through art, a search for identity

Khalil Chishtee minces no words when it comes to the abuse of plastic by our generation. But the Pakistani artist, who divides his time between Lahore and New York, prefers to let his sculptures made of recycled plastic bags do the talking.

mumbai Updated: Oct 08, 2010 03:41 IST
Dhamini Ratnam

Khalil Chishtee minces no words when it comes to the abuse of plastic by our generation. But the Pakistani artist, who divides his time between Lahore and New York, prefers to let his sculptures made of recycled plastic bags do the talking.

The 46-year-old will be showing his works in Mumbai for the first time, from October 9 to 30. Called Recycled

Identities II, the set of six sculptures will be exhibited at The Loft, Lower Parel.

Recycled Identities I was exhibited in Delhi earlier this year. “The show is not an environmental statement,” said
Deeksha Nath, curator of the exhibition. “The use of plastic, shredded and remoulded to form sculptures of human figures, is a depiction of broken people and shredded identities.”

“In India, I felt the importance of using recycled bags, which is why I am calling these works ‘Recycled Identities’,” added Chishtee, who trained at the National College of Arts in Lahore. “Millions of people [around the world] are forced to change their religious and national identities — Hindus, Christians, Indians, Pakistanis, Americans. I wonder, with all this transformation, does one get a chance to become human?”

The artist began experimenting with unconventional materials, including plumbing pipes and neon lights, in the 1990s. But it was a visit to New York in 2005 that made Chishtee switch to plastic.

“That city is always filled with people, but at midnight, thousands of trash bags filled with garbage would appear on the street. It looked as if the plastic trash bags had replaced the humans,” he said.

Since then, Chishtee has used plastic grocery bags and garbage-bin liners to create his sculptures.

“Plastic is not a particularly new medium, but Khalil Chishtee sees a sensuality and fragility in plastic that’s quite unlike any other work,” said Delhi-based contemporary art collector Swapan Seth.

“Chishtee’s works have a certain poignancy as a result of the material used. He sees beauty where we see trash.”