The works of Prajna Paramita Parasher, on exhibit at Moxie DaDA gallery as A Beholding, bring together polar opposites. Ancient language merges with 21st-century techniques, light is joined with darkness, and East is united with West in a collection of digital prints inspired by loss that gives way to reward.
The show, curated by Kari Garber, a guest curator for the gallery and a student of Parasher's at Chatham University, is resplendent with stirring imagery and weighty with history. It's a history that's both global and personal. On the latter level, Parasher cites "mourning" as an inspiration for the pieces in the show. The Indian-born artist doesn't specify who or what she's mourning, but it doesn't matter: The viewer understands the process, and each of us has a personal frame of reference to draw from.
These dozen prints explode off the walls with rich, luxurious color and striking forms. Many are enhanced with text that most of us will not be able to read. Not only are the words foreign, but the characters as unfamiliar as well. There are snippets of what might be Urdu literature, Sufi poetry or the artist's own prose. But if the substance is untranslatable, its incomprehensibility infuses it with mystery rather than placing it at an unconquerable distance. It's writing that in and of itself is visual art, and the style engages.
Parasher's images, meanwhile, can be as obscure as the words. Figures are shadowy and peripheral. They start to exit from our range of vision as mosques burn in the distance while boats are grounded before us, as in "Sunset at Midnight." They cloak themselves in protective cover offered by shadows, as seen in "The Dark Is a Garment."
But within the murkiness there are bursts of light: In the former work, color vibrates lush and deep; the latter is relieved by rays of illumination. A landscape muddy with night in "If You Were Here" occasionally shows the promise of day, with radiance divulging powder-blue skies and snake-green trees. Faces reverberate upon themselves, concealing features and hiding identity. In both "Who Am I Seeing?" and "Many Stories -- One Silence," a countenance is echoed beyond recognition, but in each print, eyes blaze out like suns, clear, seeing, understanding.
In other works, figures hover and hide, vague and tentative. While human forms are indistinct, nonhuman life is definite and confident. Flamingo-pink flowers emerging from pale-green buds are sharply executed; the edges of leaves stand out with the precision of botanical illustration.
Maybe the most telling work is "A Father, A Poem," in which an open book takes center stage. The words are unreadable, this time not because the language is one we don't understand but because they're fraying at the edges, indecipherable, like those we try to understand in dreams.
The world Parasher brings us into is one defined by uncertainty, to the extent that many works are titled by questions. But while we can't be entirely sure what direction to take, we can be sure of possibility and hope: For every shadow there's a beam of light. Mourning is a state that is not only an acknowledgment that something is gone, but that we recognize the value of what is now beyond us. Mourning is also a step on the path rather than the path itself. Something has been lost, but with it Parasher has found beauty that is generously shared.
A Beholding continues through Oct. 25. moxie DaDA gallery, 1416 Arch St., North Side. 412-682-0348 or www.moxiedada.com
- Eyes like suns: Prajna Paramita Parasher's "Many Stories -- One Silence."