Critics’ Picks

Fahd Burki, Residuum, 2014, Perspex and MDF, dimensions variable.

Fahd Burki, Residuum, 2014, Perspex and MDF, dimensions variable.

Dubai

Fahd Burki

Grey Noise
Unit 24, Alserkal Avenue, Street 8 Al Quoz 1
March 17–April 30, 2014

What makes it so challenging to write about Fahd Burki’s work is that no piece can be considered in isolation: Each contributes to an overall sensation—one of lingering unease. “Yield,” the young Lahore-based artist’s third show in Dubai, showcases a decided progression from the flat, futuristic-totem iconography of previous work towards less ambiguous but equally complex figures. In Gem, 2014, an angel-like character of sharp geometry and blocked colors, floats on a muted ground. Wide circles set within its rounded head approximate eyes that seem to stare flatly; broken lines at its arms’ ends read as clenched fists. The portrait of sorts resembles a linear, angrier version of Paul Klee’s Angelus Novus, 1920.

Like Klee, Burki seems to tackle heavy subjects (the dark side of utopia, alienation, death) with a reductive innocence. Plumbing the netherworlds of mythology, faith, and folklore, Burki’s works oscillate between being grave and comical, sinister and playful. Residuum, 2013, is an anthropomorphic figure articulated by black and white Perspex bars and cones, seeming to slide off a slab resembling that of a tomb. The grim scene—reinforced by the eerie title (are those cones little mounds of human remains?)—is somehow lightened by the stick-figure nonchalance of the character itself.

A deep sense of tactility runs through “Yield,” as Burki favors hand-driven media such as charcoal and pastel pencils on paper. The unsettling Seeking Eden, 2014, is overwhelmed by an ominous U shape of thin, masterfully applied colored-pencil lines against a black ground above receding stone slabs. Burki’s (newfound) screenprinting talent is evidenced in pieces such as Toward Light, 2013: A tree and a sun are reduced to their most rudimentary representations, nearly becoming logos; the latter ethereally dissolves in a yellow haze. Hung side by side, the two landscapes engage in an uncomfortable conversation on themes of hope and doom. Dialogues between the works abound in this sparse yet smartly hung show: The voices, like the images, leave an unshakable impression.