|How Long Does It Take Moonlight to Reach us? Just over one second. And Sunlight? Eight Minutes by Harja Waheed, 2019, Sunned Paper (detail)|
In November 2019, I visited a real (not virtual) art gallery and experienced (in real life, moving through and looking at) the exhibition Hold Everything Dear by Harja Waheed. It was at the Power Plant in Toronto and I went with daughter April and now, over a year later, I am reflecting on that experience.
The artist showed a variety of media: ceramics, textiles, installation, video, and works on paper.
|How Long Does It Take Moonlight to Reach us? Just over one Second. And Sunlight? Eight minutes by Hajra Waheed 2019 sunned paper|
Her use of sunned paper started when she was in art school. Unable to afford traditional art papers, she scrounged the display papers that stationary shops had in their windows. The shops eventually saved paper for her, as they couldn't sell it. She still visits shops and bookstores when she travels and collects 'sunned' paper.
|A River Runs Through It, Hajra Waheed, 2019 cyanotype on a bolt of linen|
We are living in a time where it is becoming difficult to identify fact from fiction.
"allowing objects to speak for themselves, allowing histories to infuse one another and viewers to steep in the mystery of interconnected clues, creating just enough tenuousness or uncertainty in order to leave space for viewers to come to the work from their own perspective and histories - these all remain urgent bottom lines for me, allowing for possibility, imagining and reimagining." Hajra Waheed
|Studies for a Starry Night by Hajra Waheed glazed porcelain and stoneware, 2019|
One body of work in the exhibition are fragments of starry sky-scapes displayed on shallow shelves. The words in the title, Starry Night, remind us of the expressionism and wonder we associate with Van Gogh.
|detail of Studies for a Starry Night 2019|
"I see my practice as a slowly unfurling process, a chronicle or story that reveals itself over the course of a lifetime rather than within the space of one exhibition. Each body of work is borderless, porous, temporally unbound, not limited with some discernible end-point." Hajra Waheed
|Letters 1-8 by Hajra Waheed, ink on paper, 2019|
The artworks in the set of work entitled Letters 1-8 were inspired by John Berger's novel that uses the device of love letters entitled from A to X . Waheed's series of letters combine careful drawings of palm leaves and personal notes.
|Letters detail Hajra Waheed ink on paper 2019|
I felt Hajra Waheed's poetic sensibility as I moved through the several rooms containing the exhibition. The title, Hold Everything Dear, is borrowed from the British art critic and novelist John Berger's 2007 book of essays. Other key texts that inspire the artist are: Rebecca Solnit's book of essays Hope in the Dark and the non-fiction of Arundhati Roy.
The exhibition is quite political yet I was able to understand it on a personal and emotional level.
|Forget What They Tell You|
There is hope in the room. Moving slowly along side the many different items we feel an invisible web-like connection. The guest curator, Nabila Abdel Nabi explains that that the artist considers all her work as if it is in a spiral. A spiral that is felt, not seen.
|forget what they tell you, this longing for you is deeper than any blue|