Humble organics in the service of a greater purpose. The deeply complex abstract paintings of Saba Hasan from New Delhi, India have a universal language that transcends culture and politics and speaks directly to the heart.
Hasan’s materials are her alphabet. She’s been known to use nails, fabric, sand and leaves, slashing the work and stitching it up again, leaving the painting outside to allow the elements to add their effects to the canvas. Looking closely, one can discern the visually poetic lettering of Urdu, an Indian language the artist appreciates for its rich linguistic nuances, as well as being her mother tongue.
The artist’s creative process is a long one, building up layer after layer on canvas over a period of time that can last from several months to two years, allowing the seasons and life’s influences to affect the work in progress. “Slow layering allows me to bring in the element of time, its passage, and its cyclical nature, as well as my emotions and different experiences,” she says.
As I began my research of Hasan’s art, I read many interviews that explored the correlation between her work and the culture, politics, and conflict in India, the influence of city life in New Delhi, the historical implications of her use of Urdu text. I wondered how I was going to present this background information to a largely non-Indian readership, without overwhelming the text. Hasan suggested I simply allowed personal interpretation. “For me, each work thrives not only on the thoughts of its maker but also the viewer,” she said, explaining that although she is influenced by her surroundings, her work focuses on matters of the heart, transcending cultural borders.
There are many levels to Saba Hasan’s art, but the one that resonates for me the most, as a North American, is the symbolism of her lengthy creative process and her deliberate layering of organic and found materials. It reminds me of a dream many of us have of exchanging our current culture of instant gratification and the pursuit of power and perfection for one that embraces “slow living” and an understanding of the value of things that are not rushed, that are allowed to evolve in their own time and an appreciation for life in all its glorious imperfection.
Here’s a detail of Requiem, where the Urdu text is apparent:
A Brief History of Time…….
Artist Credits for the images included in this post:
Saba Hasan, New Delhi, India
Mixed media paintings on canvas and photography
All images are used with permission by the artist, and are subject to copyright laws.
Saba Hasan’s artwork can be viewed at: Saba Hasan
Serena Kovalosky is the founder and CEO of Artful Vagabond Productions LLC, specializing in cultural projects and film production for the arts. Kovalosky is also a professional sculptural artist and curator.