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Capturing the Heartbeat of the Universe. Review by Geeti Sen

The size of her charcoal drawings is large in scale, stretching to six feet and each work pulsates with the rhythm of the cosmos. The gnarled roots of an ancient tree spread out across the earth, there is a rush of wings and feathers of birds through the air and the wind sweeps across plants on water, so that the roots and stalks and flowers are all uprooted, tangled and swaying. The mighty force of the movements is felt as though we could touch the ruffled feathers of birds and explore the roots in a tactile way. Yet these are not photographs at all but powerful explorations on paper, drawn free scale in black and white!

To use charcoal on such a large scale reminds Saba Hasan of her large life drawings of the human body nude twenty years ago in Switzerland at the Ecole D’Arts some of which were exhibited by the Lalit Kala Academy in 2001. Here, she is focused not on the human body but on the elements of nature. Yet, in a way, these are intimately related, body to the universe, as she is exploring the skeins and blood veins of earth and wind and air.

Using 12 or more different shades of charcoal Black and Grey to create textures, with large sweeping strokes of her arms, Hasan then blurs the charcoal to smudge the outlines and bring depth and fullness to the work. These large drawings are so free that they can be ‘seen’ to mean many things and evoke many emotions for different viewers. By relating the microcosm of the body to the macrocosm, even if not consciously articulated, Hasan is searching out new meanings.

This ambiguity of ‘meaning’ is to be found in other mediums of expression used by Hasan,

Exhibited recently at the Gallery Romain Rolland by the Alliance Francaise were not only her large charcoal drawings described previously but also her photographs of water, as well as wax works and collographs, which were created in a stint in New York at Manhattan Graphics. Each medium exhibits Hasan’s need to explore and experiment, seeking freedom and spontaneity.

The collographs were experiments done in New York in an old printing press used by a collective of graphic artists where Hasan worked with other master printers like Kathy Caraccio who had studied with Zarina Hashmi and Krishna Reddy. It involves a technique of printing that is water based, using gel on the plate. Unlike working with etching plate and woodcuts, which involves incision and cutting into the plate or wood, the lines created using this new technique can permit more spontaneity.

In context, it is significant that several contemporary women artists avoid the conventional mediums of bronze, wood, metal and canvas and prefer to work in hemp and fabric, wire and cast paper. Also exhibited and in the catalogue are Hasan’s explorations in other mediums, such as resurrecting the textures of books. In all these different mediums, the photographs prove to be her strength, and in colour or black and white, are indeed an endless source of inspiration.


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