Glasgow Print Studio presents The Weight of Air and Memory, the first major solo exhibition in the UK by artist Seher Shah. It brings together works on paper published with Glasgow Print Studio since 2014, and reflects the deep trust of a nine-year relationship between the artist and Glasgow Print Studio’s Master Printmakers. The exhibition binds places both real and imagined, with marks that retain the traces of time, through architecture, objects, and the language of mark-making.
'Absence is defined as a state in which something desired is not present or does not exist. Silence created by emptiness. An unknowable measure of distance between things. A negative space.
The Weight of Air and Memory are my studies into absence through relationships between printmaking and drawing. States of absence are explored on paper through fragility and material weight. The fractured histories within a Gandharan sculpture collection in a Chandigarh museum in India are positioned alongside a series of graphite dust drawings. A series of variations on the incomplete line fall between architectural abstraction and music notation, but communicate neither language in their entirety. Connecting all the works from a decade are the ways in which cities speak back to us; through the historical and in between the political and personal.
Argument from Silence
In the spring of 2018, I came across a sculptural fragment of a hand. Situated in a government museum in Chandigarh, India, the fragment depicted the folds of a garment around a broken limb. Visually tracing the hand, I could see cartographic borders, river lines, and a profound displacement embedded within.
A complex cultural inheritance resonates through this hand, part of a larger Gandharan sculpture collection at the museum. Made from the diverse, shared and accumulated knowledge from Persian, Syrian, Greek and Indian cultures, the fragment displayed an inherited loss, alongside the strength of kinships between diverse communities. The collection was divided between Pakistan and India from the Lahore Museum’s vast collection, after the catastrophic partitioning of the region in 1947. A brutal reorganization of territory, which continues to haunt and divide the citizens of the region, through violence and military policing. This sculptural fragment, housed in an inherited modernist vision, spoke to the nightmares of our past and present, which continue to question citizenship, belonging and home in the region.
Argument from Silence (2019) is a series of photogravures of fragments from this collection of objects. The title refers to a phrase described as ‘an attempt to prove a negative’. In the context of history, it refers to an argument made in the absence of evidence. These relationships between history and erasure, and home and belonging, have stayed with me and found a place in my work.
Ruined Score, Variations in Grey and Incomplete Measures
The etched line has extended the ways in which I think about drawing through line, depth, and material weight. Works on paper engage our visual sensibilities through the absence or weight of ink on paper, or a material trace on a surface. The process of intaglio printmaking preserves the scratches and acid-bitten marks from the needle to the hand. Drawing, through the fragility of graphite dust, or powder, works with transparency through the erasure and build-up of material. I have been drawn to the ways that the fragmented and incomplete line falls between a desire to communicate and the inability to do so. The Ruined Score (2020) etchings, Variations in Grey (2020-ongoing), and Incomplete Measures (2023) are works that speak to a language in between architectural abstraction and music notations.
Studies from a Sculpture Garden, Hewn, and Unit Object
Architectural fragments are explored through a series of works connected to modernist and brutalist forms, and imagined sculpture gardens. Walls, columns, grids, and architectural thresholds, are explored through folds, acute angles, and the surfaces and textures of buildings.
Unit Object (2014), a series of etchings shifts from planes, folds, and surfaces of the Unité d’habitation, a housing project designed by Corbusier. Stripped of its volume, the etchings share personal interpretations of a modernist landscape as a ruin. Hewn (2014), a series of woodcuts, extends these forms through play with brutalist structures with anvil-like forms, and plans and elevations set against a scaleless grid. Muslin, a textile material that is fragile and easily torn, is explored in the photogravure portfolio, Studies from a Sculpture Garden (2023), through a series of imagined gardens and forms. The textile of muslin holds a rich history, and a sharp absence through its erasure and extinction by the British colonial apparatus in its attempt at controlling muslin production. The sculpture garden is a series of repetitive forms, isolated walls forming thresholds between the exterior and interior space.'