Separate Working Things I

This work records the first time Sikander boldly painted over one of her meticulously crafted traditional compositions. Sunlike red flames extend to the sheet’s edges, creating a new image that feels both celebratory and destructive, drawing attention to and obliterating the central couple. The gesture, according to Sikander, “shatters the trope of ‘ideal love’ from within the Indian painting vernacular. The stock characters of the Lovers on Horseback (here from the celebrated story of Baz Bahadur and Rupmati) become the site for rupture, a destabilizing of the motif of heterosexual love itself.”

Shahzia Sikander (born 1969)
Separate Working Things I, 1993–95
Watercolor and gold paint on tea-stained wasli paper
Private collection
© Shahzia Sikander. Courtesy: the artist, Sean Kelly, New York and Pilar Corrias, London.