In the late 1990s, the 2000s, and occasionally since, Sikander created installations of layered tracing-paper drawings, most often in combination with wall drawings, as a counterpoint to her painting practice. The intention was to use fluid, spontaneous gestures that involved her whole body and amplified her invented motifs. This large-scale work requires a different kind of labor, skill, and pace than her smaller, intricate compositions, but she still sees it as in dialogue with classical traditions. Sikander is also attracted to the openness of the piece: “There is no intention to hide anything,” she explains. “Everything is very visible; the paper is very transparent. It flows, it moves. All marks, including any flaws, become a part of the piece, which has no borders and can expand in any direction, marking a site that is unstable and multivalent.”

Shahzia Sikander (born 1969)
Epistrophe, 2021
Gouache and ink on tracing paper
Collection the artist
The Morgan Library & Museum. Artwork © Shahzia Sikander, Photography © Casey Kelbaugh