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Seher Shah, Argument from Silence (field measurements), 2019

Seher Shah brings her beautiful, architectonic abstraction to Glasgow Print Studio for “The Weight of Air and Memory,” a show documenting her nine-year relationship with the studio’s master printers. The Karachi-born artist’s practice is informed by legacies of modernist architecture across the Indian subcontinent, as well as by narratives of colonial exploitation and Shah’s personal experiences of displacement. Her concern with geopolitical borderlands and disputed territories (like those created by the 1947 partition of India) mirrors her interest in the affinities between different graphic media.

The exhibition consists of seven discreet sequences, moving from photogravure and etching to graphite-dust-and-ink sketch. In the series “Ruined Score,” 2020, overlapping, multidirectional staves partly suggest musical notation as a kind of memory palace. At the same time, the parallel lines can also be read as train tracks or the contours of city plans. “Studies from a Sculpture Garden,” 2020, incorporates motifs from Brutalist architecture into impossible, post-Cubist building designs. Shapes waver between figure and ground, three- and two-dimensionality.

The emotional and thematic core of the exhibition is “Arguments from Silence,” 2019, a set of photogravures built up around images of sculptural fragments created by the ancient Indo-Aryan civilization of Gandhara. The layering of gridlike patterns over these artifacts—part of a historic collection now divided between India and Pakistan—hints at one possible mode of engagement with Shah’s work. Her overlaid abstract forms perhaps stand in for the many, often contradictory means of recording and measuring history and identity in a region of the world where these things are sources of pervasive political tension.

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