Haris Ahmad

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It’s about me... it's about us. My work is a form of self-portraiture, expressed even in the environments I create. My current body of work is an exploration of memory associated with the near-death of my mother. It addresses Marxist concepts of alienation as it pertains to our current disconnect from institutional spaces, and also Heideggerian concepts of death. This takes the form of large-scale images, wandering in and out of the hospital. Always, the thought of death, both personal and imminent. The medium of paper and charcoal is most appropriate in my mind because it too was once alive. In death it speaks to us about death. The drawings themselves are meant to function more like “wallpapers,” unframed resistance to the alienating utility of the gallery space.

My work combines figuration and abstraction to explore and express hidden narratives. Objects and figures emerge from dark environments or a series of energetic marks. The mundane becomes charged with my personal associations with the depicted image. My drawings are often minimal and can use negative space as a strong compositional element. Along with the existential, memory is also a central component in my work. A sudden intense moment, a series of moments, or an active visual path leading the viewer both literally and metaphorically through the conveyed memory. It’s not enough for the viewer to see the objects and figures. I want them to read the passage of time and recognize it as a derivative of memory based on the visual cues I’ve placed in the drawing.

Inspiration comes from a multitude of sources but over the years, I've found that several artists in particular continually seem to influence and engage me. William Kentridge has helped me recognize the striking power of large-scale, figurative, charcoal drawings. When I look at Richard Serra’s works on paper, I revel in the medium, and I want my viewer to experience that as well. Looking back into art history, I admire Seurat’s expressionistic conveyance of form from texture, and Caravaggio’s ability to extract form from rendered shadow and light. Their mastery of their respective techniques will always remain timeless for me.

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