Folded and crushed aluminium, metal hardware 45 1/2 x 70 1/2 in I 115.5 x 177.8 cm
For his fourth solo show with Nature Morte, Asim Waqif brings together a group of new sculptures and his latest experiments with photography under the moniker of “Material Scars.” Materials have always been the starting point for Waqif’s works: whether objects with which he has long, complicated histories, detritus he has collected from various sources, or plant forms he has nurtured into being. Before delving into the meanings and messages of his sculptures, the viewer is confronted with an aggressive material presence in his work, usually fusing incongruous elements together and harnessing an improbable sense of balance. This new body of work continues to employ bamboo, one of Waqif’s most characteristic materials, synthesized with man-made components that belie their original functions (automotive parts being favoured in these works). The most recent sculpture, “Whirl Analysis 1,” was created with craftsmen specializing in cane in Nagaland, and points to an exciting new development in the artist’s lexicon. Apart from the sheer physical voluptuousness of Waqif’s sculptures, their combinations of natural and industrial materials force us to confront many of humanity’s most urgent dilemmas, positing a moment in history (now?) when civilization may be losing control of itself.
Asim Waqif’s sculptural works have often involved photography, while disregarding the ways photographs are generally handled by artists and encountered by the audience. His practice has been partly defined by a technique he developed of mounting and folding photographs, to act as supports and surrounds for both architectonic and organic structures, and works such as these are included in this exhibition. In a new series of cyanotype prints (a process invented in 1842 that has been used predominantly for reproducing architectural plans and fell out of favour as reproduction techniques advanced) Waqif confuses process, image, and object together into a single aesthetic statement. These one-of-a-kind prints are generated through the manipulation of the paper itself and the shadows of objects falling on the paper. Actions one would associate more with destruction rather than creation are harnessed to elaborate elusive images through the printing process. Experimenting with different types of papers, Waqif crumples and creases, exposes and blocks, diffuses and compresses to capture fleeting traces which resemble the movement of a shadow, the recurrence of a memory, or the fluctuation of a breeze.
Brought together, Waqif’s newest sculptures and photo-works present a powerful reinterpretation of our aesthetic parameters. His working methods bring together a brutality and a delicacy that might seem incompatible. But Waqif’s vision is all-encompassing, his creativity seemingly unlimited. Apart from formal and material extrapolations, these works might be read as codices for behaviour, both personal and societal, from which to extricate ourselves from our most challenging dilemmas.
On View: 7 Poorvi Marg, Vasant Vihar, New Delhi; October 8–November 13, 2021