Congruity and Contradictions: Echoes of the Self, by Asma Hashmi & Aisha Darr

Expo @ The Jam Factory, Oxford 12 Jan – 14 Feb 2016

Philly Rutt’s work is mainly acrylic on canvas. Several are random streaks of paint streaking vertically, as if a teenager had suddenly discovered Abstract Expressionism and thought what fun it would be to give it a try. The explanatory text explains that her work is ‘inspired by the landscape around her’ though how this is so remains opaque – to me, at least.

The main body of the exhibition, in the bar and in the boiler room is by Asma Hashmi and Aisha Darr. These are technically accomplished artefacts which many would feel happy to hang on the walls of a dining or reception room. They are pleasing to look at, undemanding and undisturbing. To a casual viewer they are more decorations than art, if the latter is taken as objects which convey meaning.

How mistaken would be such a casual viewer! They might well feel bemused by the title given to this exhibition: ‘Congruity and Contradictions: Echoes of the Self’. What it is that is congruent, and with what, and what is contradictory are not at all apparent. There is an accompanying text which “explains”:

‘Aasma explores the inherent discomfort of being inside a woman’s body and the intricacy of female sexuality and gender undercurrents; communicated through her use of intricate lines and overt layering … Aasma’s art is evocative of female genitalia covered in sheer layers of social norms and expectations’.

There is no suggestion as the nature of this ‘discomfort’. Would any of her images, presented to an uninformed viewer, engender this evocation of genitalia ?

However, this text is a model of clarity compared with the commentary on Aisha Darr, who, apparently:

‘is intrigued by the unforgiving quality of the ball pen; of the idea of each stoke of a ball pen on paper being an emotion that leaves an indelible mark on a person’s inner self.’

The more one reads this sentence, the more nonsensical it becomes. It’s only clear statement being that somehow a ball pen is ‘unforgiving’. Really? How more so than a fountain pen, a rollerball, or a mechanical typewriter?

Suppose one took the text from ‘Congruity and Contradiction ..’ and attached it to Philippa’s acrylics – would anyone notice the difference, would there be any sense of … well … incongruity? I think not

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