Arif Hussain Khokhar in conversation with Maha Malik
My new body of work moves perhaps towards a mood of silence and emptiness, a turn towards delicacy. Its ‘meaning’ resides in, and is in fact bound to, its formal making. This process is three-fold. Through drawing and spontaneous graphite impressions on canvas, I evolve a primary visual image. This is followed by a further imagining via the de-constructive processes of canvas wash, erasure, or cutting. In a third movement, I utilise the leftover materials, the by-products of my investigations, in order to create an autonomous work.
The canvas surface may then speak of itself as an erased thing.
Imagine, as though, the remains of an old house, its remembering.
Or, say, a painting found after a long time, with certain cracks in tow.
Here, a new mood too is given—that of living residue.
Through material processes of construction-and-deconstruction, I explore a manner of creative ecology. In this world, waste is part of the art work.
Graphite particles, the rubbed-out remains of a twelve-feet drawing, become in turn the substance of twelve, foot-long ‘bricks’. For me, this relationship is valuable. Notions of subtle gradation and build mark their space alongside, or rather, out of the very phenomenon of erasure.
Such an approach to image-making is a departure from my known practice.
In earlier work I would fill the chosen surface area with drawings—fully rendered objects, their contours, in dense and energetic overlays. I used a range of media, colour as well as charcoal, graphite, and was invested in a kind of cumulative aesthetic. I was also intrigued by the idea of virtuosity. Drawing as a skill-based performance. I looked towards qualities of flow, velocity, big line work. And I considered surface design in very deliberate ways.
In time, my drawing began to let go of figural reference. In place of objects, contours. A thickening, gestural quality emerged in line. And instead of an embedded feel there occurred a gradual surfacing of negative spaces. By 2017 however, the inaugural time of this body of work, there was a radical shift in both practice and work temperament.
By accident, fallen charcoal particles smudge and stain a floor-based canvas. Wrinkles in its fabric become lines, distorted impressions in coal, something fading, quiet, a feeling of age. This grips—and it pushes the idea of drawing into another realm. Now, it is a removing-of-face…in which the image appears. This is the work itself.
A method is imagined, in cycles of construction-and-deconstruction.
Absence as a presiding presence.
Relationship, dynamically borne, out of notions of the negative, the superfluous, out of effacement and disregard.