Risham Syed’s “The Seven Seas” in Jameel Arts Centre
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A current exhibition in Jameel Arts Centre features Risham Syed’s work The Seven Seas (2012). It is a series of large scale quilts. She got her fabric from travels to Turkey, Bangladesh, the U.A.E, Sri Lanka, U.K., India and her native Pakistan. In her work Syed follows the ways of the 19th and early 20th Century cotton trade of the British Empire and explores its connection to contemporary geopolitics.

Bombay (India). 98cm x 190cm | Hand-loom cotton from Maharashtra, Parsi Gara, Warli tribe print cotton with digitally printed cotton from Lahore filled with American cotton wool.

Each quilt is unique and made by combining a variety of techniques. The stitching and layering of fabric echo the layering of historical and post-colonial narratives.

An interesting description of her artworks can be found in the presentation of the exhibition: “…Syed weaves the history of the location-specific craft of textile production with tales of political resistance. All her quilts depict 20th-century maps of various port cities that were strategically located on the colonial European trade route such as Izmir in Turkey, Kandy in Sri Lanka, Mumbai in India, and Ras al-Khaimah in the U.A.E. Apart from being trade gateways, these cities were also sites of resistance and rebellion against imperial powers.”

The Seven Seas was originally commissioned for the ABRAAJ Capital Art prize 2012.

Ras Al Khaiman (UAE). 105cm x 170cm | ‘Talli’, vintage scarf, metal work on digitally printed cotton from Lahore filled with American cotton wool. ‘Keffiyeh’ for the back.

Risham Syed is a Pakistani-based artist who was born in 1969 and lives in Lahore, the artist’s native city. She uses painting, as well as other mediums to explore questions of history, sociology, and politics.  Lahore is a big metropolis and it plays the main role in Risham Syed’s art. It’s ‘urban transition’ became very noticeable over the past few years. In her art works Syed explores the problems related to the life of a big city as well as the questions related to what the colonial history of the region has meant to today’s culture. Her paintings are the part of her inquiries about greater, global context, her installations and use of objects has social reference and connotation. In her works Syed uses a lot of different media and techniques – paintings, installations with found objects, fabric, embroidery, weaving.

Risham Syed received a Bachelor degree in Painting from the National College of Art, Lahore in 1993 and her MA from the Royal College of Art, London in 1996. Nowadays Risham Syed lives and works in Lahore, Pakistan. 

The Seven Seas will be open to the public until May 14, 2023. To learn more, please visit the official web page of the show.

You might also be interested in visiting the Proposals for a Memorial to Partition exhibition.