An Island of Truths
Drawing on feelings of isolation and wonder, Maha Ahmed depicts the experience of identity as it is constructed and re-constructed through the narratives of others. Presenting a new body of work for her first solo show at Kristin Hjellegjerde Gallery Berlin titled An Island of Truths, the Pakistani artist examines the impact of ‘othering’on the construction of self and the concept of truth when it is contained within specific cultural boundaries. Her intricate, otherworldly visions of fantastical creatures and distant worlds, offer a poignant refection on her personal feelings of isolation, during a period of working and living in Tokyo, and the way in which we can view cultures different from our own.
Ahmed dreams up imaginary worlds in which her characters —often mythical or hybrid creatures —arein some way at odds from their surrounding and other inhabitants, thus emphasising the seemingly minor differences that nonetheless create a haunting detachment between individuals sharing the same environment. “This whole imagery comes from my own experiences of feeling different,”admits Ahmed. “In Japan, the seat next to me on the train is always last to be filled because I look visibly different and they’re scared I’ll say something. These little creatures are obviously different, but I’m not trying to make something negative or ugly, I want to make them beautiful.”In this way, the artist opens up a discussion around the varying attitudes of ‘othering’from xenophobia —as is often provoked by fear —to the romanticising of the unfamiliar.