Surface Gallery
East Midlands

Joseph Cerski

Critical Review: ‘Terra Incognita’
Specifically Kashif Nadim Chaudry’s work Titled ‘Harem’
Location: Surface Gallery, Nottingham

Terra Incognita

Newly installed exhibition ‘Terra Incognita’ occupies the project space at the top of the surface gallery. I intend to cover certain aspects of this exhibition in the review although I will primarily be focusing on work titled ’Harem’ by British artist Kashif Nadim Chaudry. Waiting at the door for the attendant to buzz us in already creates quite a personal and intimate feeling upon entering the gallery; then being escorted up two flights of stairs to the project space itself established a sense of importance for the viewer. Despite knowing full well this behaviour is mandatory and every one is treated the same the initial impact on the viewer is reminiscent throughout the exhibition. The tender, intimate theme was present during the course of my experience in the Surface gallery; immediately I was struck by arguably the most visually demanding piece of work in the room. ’Harem’ by Kashif Nadim Chaudry in it’s most basic form is presented as a colour wheel; what appears to be hundreds of different pieces of cloth and fabric laid out specifically in order of colour. This however was no ordinary colour wheel, as if they’re rising out of the floor draped in the fabric 6 figures emerge. Laid equal distance from one another with their heads in the centre of the wheel, feet around the outer edge the figures lay motionless. In the artist statement I collected at the exhibition Kashif states ’I have a great love for cloth and have collected over the years much fabric. The time was right I felt to purge myself of the vast repository but I needed something equally desirable to use as my canvas. And what better than six naked men, the perfect ingredients for a Harem!’ Although contradictory to my original thought that these figures may in fact resemble corpses (due to being covered head to toe in material, like when bodies are covered after death out of respect) each one had an erection. So immediately the work swings into a very playful environment, accentuated by the colours and shapes the bodies make on the materials the whole piece resembles an alien like terrain. Every angle you observe the work the folds and bends in the material present a further unique encounter. On the artist statement Kashif states ‘Desire has never been so tangible’ referring to his work, this obviously is a personal viewpoint dependant upon your sexuality. For me this ties in excellently to the title of the exhibition; ‘Tera Incognita’ meaning ’Unknown Ground’. Despite it’s playful, harmless atmosphere it raises certain questions involving something as personal as sexuality, despite sexuality being grounds of uncertainty for some people Kashif has harnessed his own attitudes to sex and is openly experimenting with work which has the potential to make people uncomfortable. It openly questions people’s comfort within social boundaries, I for one think that this is an exciting piece of work; in today’s society something as widely discussed and experimented with as sexuality is a front runner as far as themes of work are concerned.

The work was presented on the upper most floor the Surface Gallery had to offer. This exhibition was an all round intimate encounter showcasing work from Kashif Nadim Chaudry and Emma Dexter. The one I found most interesting was Kashif’s work, this investigative piece was presented in a roughly 8 by 8 meter square space. The natural light in the exhibition filtered in through the near by windows giving each figure definition and the colours in the fabric a shine and purity, the work and the space complimented each other very well. The work correlates well with the three other features in the exhibition, Emma Dexter’s work has a significant man made element to it, each piece has an equally personal feeling around it linking it very well to Kashif’s piece ‘Harem’. She makes work described as autobiographical and is informed by her own experiences, ‘Terra Incognita’ is no different featuring thee works but I feel that her wall relief, ‘Darling in the Vein of Contra’, shares the greatest link to Kashif’s piece both in terms of context and location. Her work runs on the adjacent wall and shares the same playful and imposingly seductive element her exhibition partner Kashif has. All of the work has shared themes linking to ambiguity and vagueness; work based specifically on experiences or ideals leaves a narrative up to interpretation. My practise revolves around central themes regarding ambiguity, this work links particularly well with mine for a few reasons. 1) Covering, hiding and the way these actions compliment the narrative link strongly to my theme, specifically the mystery that Kashif’s work contributes. 2) The act of covering or not supplying all the information is something I’ve involved in my own practise. There were very few negatives regarding this largely delightful trip to Surface gallery. However I firmly believe the initial encounter with the work is uniquely different before reading the artist statement, the availability of the statement is perhaps one of the only criticisms or issues I have with the work. Being able to access this information pre informs you as to what the artists wanted to specifically communicate; in today’s contemporary art scene, where the freedom of interpretation is actively encouraged, is it appropriate to discuss one specific piece of work prior to seeing it? People may perhaps have not seen the work prior to reading the description, this obviously begins a trail of thought regarding the work before initial reactions have been allowed to manifest. Fortunately I encountered the work before reading the statement supplied by the artist; thus resulting in my own, uninformed opinions to present themselves and in turn reflect on paper. I thoroughly recommend a trip to Surface gallery to see ‘Terra Incognita’, although if you can manage to restrain yourselves, for the sake of the future of contemporary art leave the detailed reading of the statement until after you’ve had your moment with the work.