'Is, But Will Be' at The Blackwood Gallery, 2021

Foreword by Saša Rajšić, independent curator and artist

The exhibition ran from Jan 11 - Feb 07, 2021
You can see images of the work here.
You can see installation views and other exhibition elements here.

Shaheer Zazai’s artistic practice employs a process-based methodology: he works from a set of parameters (including rules for colour-relation and colour-interaction, font size, and characters) as he generates abstract and geometric imagery using Microsoft Word.

While Zazai’s work often engages with and mimics methodologies for creating Afghan carpets in digital form, he approached Is, but will be as an opportunity to respond to the parameters of Burning Glass, Reading Stone. Zazai used the numbers 4, 6, and 9 in this series (referencing four 6x9ft lightboxes at the University of Toronto Mississauga), in addition to an existing palette of numerical sequences referencing textiles used in carpet manufacture. Producing a series of four related images, Zazai plays with the repetition of color and symbol, and experiments with glitch imagery, attending to the lightbox’s status somewhere between a print and a computer screen.

While this series differs from Zazai’s previous digital work in its absence of immediately recognizable carpet aesthetics, it puts an emphasis on other questions, calling forth histories of abstraction, coding, and visual representations of contemporary diasporic experience. What expectations to make cultural experience visible, perceptible, legible, and tangible to a broad audience do artists in diasporic communities navigate? What happens when traditional cultural imagery is abstracted to the point of data glitch? How can abstraction (as in Zazai’s images) question our understanding of diasporic imagery? Is, but will be—designed to convey a kind of information overload—offers us a look into a complex world of information, translation, and contemporary diasporic experience, lurching between colourful prayer carpets and code, rituals and numerals, personal identity and abstraction.

Using Format