Review by Punam Zutshi
April 20, 2012


Mixed Media Works by Saba Hasan
February 24- March 24, 2012
At Gallery Art Konsult, Hauz Khas Village,
New Delhi



Saba Hasan's show lays no claim to a central theme. It simply says 'Mixed Media works by Saba Hasan' on the invitation on an evocative image of nine texts that lie in wraps on wooden prayer book stands, speaking of sanctity. The light streams in on them greedily, artfully , recruited to the larger design of the installation, bringing the outside in....


So you enter: a book sprouts in military precision a border of nails... not quite a bed of nails but something that ensures that we are in the realm of violence and vulnerability... crucified and bound over and over... treated like a block of wood rather than a body, a corpus of paper... nailed shut... over killed as with a surfeit of last nails in a coffin ... except that the coffin hides its secrets... Or is it that the books bristle, threaten to draw blood, lacerate, wound...

The books burn or get burned, grow fossilised, get enbalmed, bound tightly ... subject to the vagaries and the aggression that is visited on the earth, even the self... Are these not eternal books yielding secrets? Are these false or meaningless?

Or are these caught in a dance of violence... even as the earths furrows run deep, swampy and ravine like... books are not trod in the mud like mad... but they are the object of mainly man's aggression or discernment?


Is it wrong to connect too much? Wrong to think of a whole (deny the presence of gentler pieces that should not be drawn into this ineluctable train of meaning?) a sequence, as a journey past forests and leaves and mystical storms creating disquiet ? The rites of spring demand the sacrifice of books grown old? Even as I proclaim that sound, the oral is sacred,  shruti not smriti...I cannot deny the place of smriti, the written..are we too sequestered in the attitude that raises a book that we drop, to one's head as an act of apology to the goddess... does this prevent one from renting the veil to reveal meaning/ meanings?

A book is given a burial, it is shrouded, the chattering brooks, the books of nature yield up their meaning and pebbles, to be collected or incarcerated?

Where are the acts of God, which the acts of man ?

Is this a fight for authenticity, for a fierce negation of the redundant?  Or is this a medley of cacophonous shrieks and wails?

Clearly the disquiet reaches a crescendo... it needs dispelling, the forest needs clearing, to forge forward to the light that tradition can obscure ?


We reach a sanctum now  (is it the sanctum?)  A serene arrangement of a magic square of nine invitations to read together, pray together ... every reader her or his own mediator?  an akhand path? Almost upanishadic if we could visualise the teacher and his students sitting in a forest clearing..... Ramchandra Gandhi the philosopher reminded us that upanishad literally meant ' sitting close '...

Are the books under wraps a sign of stillness, could the books really be 'dummy texts'? I do not think so... There is nothing to suggest stagnation. The artist has placed this installation in an inner space, a space that is a counterpoint or even a place one arrives at world weary, book weary, to dispel disquiet...

The light plays magically...and while I said invitation earlier, I might actually say that the space is bathed in presence of a comradely engagement where the plenitude of meaning is sought afresh.