A question for you: how often do you see something which consciously makes you feel guilty for looking? Has there ever been a time when you’ve witnessed an event or image, and thought, “this isn’t for me – I shouldn’t be seeing this.” Well, if you haven’t, head down to the New Art Exchange (before the end of June), because Faiza Butt’s exhibition will surely provide that feeling.
Upon entering the gallery you see a darkened room filled with four inner-lit panels. Each one is covered with the sort of swirly text and hypnotic 3D prints that you might find on one of Zara’s designer t-shirts. They stand tall and unashamed in the centre of a matt-black room, and their alignment in a square creates an almost ritualistic atmosphere around the room and it’s occupants. The effect this has is definitely striking, and makes for a great change from the usual ‘images-on-walls’ layout. But be sure to get some information about the process before you start your tour, as the words in this exhibition take on a great deal more meaning with a bit of backstory.
Slide into the adjacent room, and you come to what feels more like a normal gallery. Across the walls we see a selection of Eastern-European faces – portraits of men in positions halfway between manliness and eroticism. Amongst them also sits sinister drawings of children transitioning from holding balloons to holding guns. And from where I stood, the most memorable of these was almost unarguably the three faces on the far-right wall.
These figures are made up of convicted members of a terrorist association, and they lurk there like uncanny “representations of the world’s loss of innocence” as the artist puts it. But the strikingly-large prints of these images also gave me the chance to comprehend the intense process that Faiza must have gone through. Immense effort must have been require to create such life-like pencil-stroked mugshots, and great thought must have been put into how we have historically idolised and memorialised male antagony by creating artistic shrines like this.
So head over to the New Art Exchange before the end of June if you want to witness Fazia’s extremely politically-savvy work for yourself. Her unusually minimalist approach to portraits will also prove to be something the likes of which you don’t often get to see. And the ironic message she creates around the dangers of fantasising criminals equally makes ‘Paracosm’ that bit more meaningful than your average art exhibition, so it’s well worth a visit.