l'art d'être · laureen andalib

The Intrinsic Code of Language

Within each representation is an impulse to intervene yet preserve.

Indian, born 1937  Intaglio on Arches Cover buff paper Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art

Zarina Hashmi
Indian, born 1937
Intaglio on Arches Cover buff paper
Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art

The core of Hashmi’s practice raises broader issues concerning homelessness and dispossession in the modern world.

Travels With Rani maps the places that Zarina visited with her sister against a background composed of the names of the places they traveled to written in Urdu. Although their trips took them to both India and Pakistan, the artist has deliberately left out the border in her diagram. Urdu, written in the nastaliq style of Persian script, was widely used by Muslims in India until Partition, when it became the official language of Pakistan, and its usage in India declined. The artist has written:

I chose Urdu not for the beauty of calligraphy or the exoticism of its aesthetics. I was placing my work in a historical moment, capturing a time when one wrote and read in Urdu. Urdu was born in Delhi; Amir Khusrau called in Hindawi, the language of Hindustan. Now we are witnessing the slow death of this language in the same city.

Tiffany Chung Vietnamese-American, born 1969 "Flora and Fauna Outgrowing the Future," (2010) Micro pigment ink, oil and alcohol-based marker on vellum and paper Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art

Tiffany Chung
Vietnamese-American, born 1969
“Flora and Fauna Outgrowing the Future,” (2010)
Micro pigment ink, oil and alcohol-based marker on vellum and paper
Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art

In creating “Translations” (2013) as my drawing thesis in freshman year, my critique was a flop because I realized making my series was ultimately for myself. Making it was elevating, and I further expanded on my bizarre, abstract, mechanical design style I often improvise and was seeking to clarify in high school before I entered college. I am still left frustrated in trying to explain the meanings behind my “aesthetic” to my audience, because before, there was no conceptual aura.
Tiffany Chung clarifies a similar frustration I experience, but so much more elegantly. Her map drawings are abstract and complex representations of landscapes that have been affected by processes of urbanization, industrialization, natural disasters, and large-scale warfare, ideas I am also fascinated by. The crafted components of her cartographic drawings include reticular ornamental forms that convey a sense of organic growth, like a fungal spread under the lens of a microscope. For the artist, the extreme level of technical detail and crafted beauty in these drawings speaks to the urgent, at times frenetic, desire for modernization and progress, which in turn can cause dire effects for human populations and ecological systems. This drawing represents the artist’s vision of the future of the Mekong Delta in Vietnam, as development and climate change impact the ecology of the river system and its communities.

The Intrinsic Code of Language

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