Viewers never approach a work of art with an innocent eye. This is certainly the case when viewing the work of Seher Shah, whose detailed drawings and prints merge diverse iconographies. Having lived multinationally, between Pakistan, the UK, Belgium, and the US, Shah has absorbed more perspective than most. Combining that experience with her dazzling aesthetic sensibility and draftsmanship, Shah produces drawings that are as smart and relevant as they are beautiful.
The title of the show, Jihad Pop engages with two loaded words. They are words that have been loaded by the media to imply that Muslims are extremists and Americans are facile. Yet Jihad, by traditional definition, does not call for armed conflict, and pop culture is not the harbinger of American consumerism. The work in this show revives the traditional definition of jihad, of an inner struggle to resolve contradictions.
In both the media and the traditional definitions, jihad and pop are self replicating, finding resolution through their own inner logics. However, the drawings of Shah find resolution in more than one world, where, in theory, only contradiction should exist. The black cube (the holy Kaaba) unfolds into a cross; Islamic ornamentation takes on the characteristics of animation or graffiti; architectural traditions destroy each other and reform; childhood snapshots get confused with fairytale – until Shah’s migratory drawings collect her memory into collective symbols familiar to everyone and to none, into the Black Star of Jihad Pop.
Born in 1975 in Karachi, Pakistan, Seher Shah grew up in the U.K, Belgium and New York. She is currently living and working in Brooklyn, New York. She received her B.F.A and Bachelor of Architecture from the Rhode Island School of Design in 1998. Her work has been included at the Independents at the Liverpool Biennial, the Queen’s Museum of Art, the Armory show and the Gulf Art Fair and Gallery Nature Morte. She is currently working on a series of prints and large-scale drawings, which explores Islamic iconography through universal geometries and forms. Her works are in several private collections, as well as the Museum of Contemporary Art in Schauffhausen, Switzerland and the Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary Foundation (T-B-A21).