The movement of Sikander’s brush, fully loaded with white gouache, is palpable in this depiction, yet the figural or architectural form itself remains ambiguous. The top portion, a face covering for a shuttlecock burka, is most clearly articulated. The haunted image responds to the Orientalist obsession with the veil in the Western imagination: Is it perforated armor, a shelter, a mask, or a shell? According to Sikander, “Housed is about the constraints of escaping an imprisoning representation. The cage-like form has a door, and a pink heart lurks inside. This painting tapped into my anxiety of being boxed into a stereotype on behalf of a culture or a religion.”

Shahzia Sikander (born 1969)
Housed, 1995 Gouache and charcoal on clay-coated paperboard
Collection of the artist
© Shahzia Sikander. Courtesy: the artist, Sean Kelly, New York and Pilar Corrias, London.