Secret Lives (Ali Kazim) 2006

To look at one of Ali Kazim's paintings is not only to look at something wonderful, and remarkable. It is also to look at an image that is deeply intriguing. Kazim is a highly skilled and accomplished painter, but he is also a compelling teller of mysterious and wondrous stories. These stories in turn contain subtle, yet strong references to autobiographical narratives and reflections on the self. The artist uses watercolour pigments as his preferred medium of mark making. Yet Kazim's work demonstrates a very unusual technique of using these watercolour pigments resulting in an almost layered, textured effect that gives weight and form to the figures in his paintings. The depth and richness of Kazim's colours is not of the sort we would ordinarily associate with watercolours, or think watercolours could achieve. An artist of exquisite technical ability, Kazim entices us also with the subtle nuances, body language and arrangements of the figures in his paintings.

... With hair being one of the major demarcations and differentiations of gender, is the male seeking to attain some sort of androgyny or hermaphroditism? Or does the shaving of ones armpits signify, for men, some sort of cleansing or beautifying process, as it might do for certain women? The title of the painting indicates perhaps, a predevotional act of ablution, the ceremonial washing of parts of the body on the holiest day of the week. Ultimately of course, the answers to these questions, if genuine questions they be, evade us. Ironically, in facing Kazim's work, the only thing that is certain is the beautiful and haunting uncertainty that characterises much of it.

We are, it seems, destined to be forever on the outside of the characters in Kazim's paintings. We can, apparently, do little more than observe and wonder about the secret thoughts, lives and expressions that his male figures, without exception, carry. In the painting Whisper, one male, using his hand for added secrecy, whispers something into the ear of another...

The full version of the above text appeared as “Secret Lives”, a text for the exhibition catalogue, Sacred Souls, Secret Lives: Paintings by Ali Kazim (Pakistan), lightgallery, London, May 24 – June 3 2006: 6 - 12