Find yourself in fine art.
January is bursting with forward outlooks, but I want to meet our past as more than just a study. The past informs the way we experience the present. When we look at an artwork, we witness and enshroud it with our experiences, overlaying it with our personal poetics.
Art nourishes us. It heals us. It’s more than life’s supplement. It is sustenance. For instance, after I start taking a medication, I find that I go elsewhere to truly heal. I go to art, horoscopes, prayer, poetry. These are the spiritual genres of reality.
The past has a way of being there for us. These horoscopes celebrate artists of the past, as well as contemporary ones, who built the South Asian art world yet are often forgotten in mainstream narratives. What better way to move forward than to hold and honor our great past through art.
SH Raza brought the bindu (seed) motif to the Indian art world during his reign in the 1950s and onwards. To Raza, the bindu represented genesis of all things. In this photo, he stands against a bindu spiraling outwards into shades of black, green, blue and red—colors symbolizing mystery, power, intellect, peace and intuition. Aries, you are this bindu and the whorls around and outside of it.
Sacrilegiousness is timeless. You can imagine how controversial this might have been—one Ganesh sits on a woman’s face, the other pleasures her on the opposite end while gently propping up a leg with his trunk. When it comes to sex and worship, Taureans are among zodiac royalty. This depiction may not be too far from your reality or at least what you know you are capable of giving and receiving.
Amrita Shergill flouted the western gaze while using the colonial art world’s mechanics for her nudes, self-portraits, and still lifes. There is eroticism and ardency in the expressions of each painting. In “Nude,” a reptilian fish-like figure mimicks the waves in a brown-skinned woman’s hair. The only peach we see is on a blanket. For some of us, the only peach we see is inside of ourselves.
Arvind Kolpkar captures the shadows and light in mundane moments among lovers. The bodies in his paintings bend to details revealing the verisimilitude of anatomical positioning—the way lovers crane their necks forward in focus or reprieve, how a back perches or rests in twilight. The viewer is able to intuit the braiding along each figure’s spine against idyllic moods and cool, soothing colors.
Bin Qullander is a contemporary artist who follows the legacy of Sadequain, the first well-known Pakistani calligraphy artist. Sadequain latticed words over moods and landscapes. Qullander does the same in a spin so modern that it is almost futuristic, even cosmic. Language is more than what takes shape out of our mouths or on paper, it literally forms our world, perceptions, and biology.
“Fairy in the Moonlight” is a far cry from the cubism paintings Gagendranath Tagore was known for. Yet, what we perceive with our eyes can be cut in so many ways— for example, an elephant in a few shapes or all of its curves, much like the depiction of womanhood throughout time. Here, we see the partnership between light and darkness, and the necessity of both to create something so delicate.
Zainul Abedin made modernist paintings of indigenous Santhal women. He is also known for his sketches showing famine in India and of Palestinian refugees in Syria and Jordan in the 1970s. His work honestly depicted the working class and human suffering, making Abedin one of the most social-justice focused artists in India. Libra, you may be known for your social graces, but your convictions are just as powerful.
Through the lens of objectivity, we can start to feel the soul of things. We can begin to identify what caused the here and now, rather than tell of it through distorted memory or prophecy. “Psyche” is the Greek word for soul, for which the symbol is the butterfly. In Nalini Malini’s “The sense of touch,” scientific illustrations of butterflies, flower petals and stalks, and snails superimpose cell blots. Here lies conception.
Zubeida Agha was Picasso’s contemporary, whom she got to know, and one of the greatest colorists in the history of Pakistani painting. “Midnight” is one of her most intense colorations. In green, there is greed and whimsy. In turquoise, there is awakening and rebellion. In teal, there is flight. In white, there is fire. The hottest stars in the sky are blue, then white.
Saira Wasim’s art is deliberate and pristine. The shapes are clean and the colors are finished in the buffed styles seen on on marbleized plaque works popular inside palace walls. But that is the irony. She reveals truths that challenge the status quo in historical narratives. She houses this knowledge in a way that compels people to listen with their eyes. This is also your talent, Capricorn. Call it poetry.
Anwar Saeed’s work is profoundly progressive and acutely psychological. In “Toys Are Us,” a man looks at two busts (of himself or a lover?) while his partner innocuously holds a spinner behind him. This is a moment many Aquarians have experienced in love. Saeed’s paintings are so thoughtfully colorized that they make you freeze for a second, suspending and grounding you at the same time. This art work grips us.
Naiza Khan is a contemporary artist who uses the stylings of classic works. “Pearl Divers” is wrought with conflict but there is no war scene save blue and red splashes. This is where abstraction lives today as the personal and political continue to collude in our bodies. When the first ever star exploded, all the stuff we are currently made out of burst out of its cosmic skin. It was the moment that generated eternity.