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Sullivan+Strumpf, Singapore
2019.05.27 Mon - 2019.06.02 Sun
Opening Exhibition
5 Lock Road #01-06
+65 6871 8753
Opening Hours
Tues - Sat 11-7pm
Sunday 11-6pm
or by appointment
Sullivan and Strumpf

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‘Ashes to Ashes’
Sullivan+Strumpf Singapore
[Press Release]

Ashes to Ashes at Sullivan+Strumpf marks Adeela Suleman’s first solo exhibition in Singapore. In a career that has spanned more than twenty years, Suleman, who is both an educator as well as a practicing artist, is renowned for her continued commitment to sculptures that are aesthetically beguiling, socially critical, culturally rooted and universally relevant.

The works exhibited in Ashes to Ashes should be seen both as an advancement, as well as a continuation of Suleman’s engagement with the narration and documentation of violence. Moving beyond the meticulously crafted, seductive miniatures of late 16th and early 17th century Akbari manuscripts, which Suleman quoted in earlier works, precisely because this apogee of miniature tradecraft masked violent death in poetic valour and bejewelled beauty, Suleman’s current works reflect the escalating brutalism and omnipresent malevolent, metastatic embeddedness of local and global violence.

From the very beginning, Suleman’s sculptures have mined personal experience and biography: the concept and the unlimited potentialities of the domestic domain particularly appealed to Suleman. Her early works repurposed prosaic kitchen utensils, initially into protective headgear for women and later into connubial missiles causing cultural commentators to align her practice with vernacular popular art and/or South Asian feminism. Rather than conform to what she considered the closed strictures of feminism, however, or be constrained by any other fashionable ‘isms’, Suleman’s sculptures continued to incorporate quotidian objects while her practice echoed her urban concerns and moved beyond the boundaries of gender, extending both the content and context of her works.

Living and working in Karachi at the cusp of the 21st Century, Suleman experienced a period which saw an exceptional efflorescence of artistic activity following the strident Islamisation and tight censorship under the dictator General Zia ul-Haq. Suleman belongs to a generation of artists who helped reframe the contexts of contemporary art from Pakistan and its international reception and a number of them address the issue of violence. It was nonetheless impossible for an artist as sensitive and as socially aware as Suleman to ignore the growing tensions and creeping violence that was beginning to distort life in Karachi where she lives and works. The corrosive effects of a post 9/11 Pakistan, its precarious relationship with the United States and its ongoing struggle with militants and religious fundamentalists shaped Suleman’s concerns whilst sectarian and ethnic killings in and around Karachi dictated the contours of Suleman’s studio practice.

Text by Savita Apte, independent researcher working with modern and contemporary South Asian art.