Saskia Fernando Gallery
Jan 11 - Feb 11, 2024
All images courtesy of Saskia Fernando Gallery
Firi Rahman's latest series, wades through ideas of being and belonging as he responds to the experiences of migration and examines the obscure notions of home.
Caught between the desire for familiarity and the lack of stability, home becomes a ubiquitous construct in Firi Rahman's Swept Away Like Leaves.Taking its name from a verse in Agha Shahid Ali's A Country Without A Post Office, a poem that echoes the sentiments of loss and longing for a place that exists only in memory, Firi Rahman’s new body of work is a commentary on experiences of refugees and migrants who exist in an ambiguous & uprooted zone of belonging and non-belonging, as they try to comprehend the meaning of home.
The Journey lll, 2023, Pen on Paper, 30 × 20 cm
The Journey XI, 2023, Pen on Paper, 36 × 26 cm
Perch to perch, 2024, Mixed Media, 57 × 76 cm
Spaces and Memories V, 2024, Pen on Paper and Wooden Cage, 51 × 44 × 23 cm
The series draws from the artist's observation of parakeets in the Parisian skies. Introduced along the routes of luxury trade as exotic species, they have come to inhabit the foreign landscapes of Europe. Removed from their natural habitats these creatures are slowly adapting to new environments, but as their populations increase they are being viewed as invasive and a threat to local fauna. They are refugees in a foreign land much like those who have left their loved one and familiar habitat, carrying dreams and hopes for a better life.
Rahman’s practice reflects a deep empathy for creatures of flight - reading in their interactions with each other the warmth and comfort they seek in the companionship of kin and kith with whom they share their nest. He observes in their mannerisms a forlorn hope - the expressions of loss and grief - mirroring human experiences. It is these observations that Rahman draws from in his exploration of home. The pencil and ink drawings appear as residues left behind after the vibrancy of colour is removed, evoking a contained expression of hope enveloped in the angst of separation, grief that mixes with warm affection. The monochromatic shades of black, and lucid lines convey fathomless emotions in its vulnerability.
Soaring up against the sky like a maelstrom, Rahman’s leitmotif of birds fly across uncharted routes seeking nameless destinations in Rahman’s nine-part drawing Pandemonium, essaying the uncertainty that accompanies journeying through unknown roads. In the series Spaces and Memories the mihrabs- shaped window niches, fragments of architecture, cabinets and almirahs, parts of a house that collect and store memories - take on cage-like appearances, echoing the confinement of exile, seeking in the empty spaces the tangible presence of loved ones. It echoes the sentiments of both those who left and those who are left behind - of absences and warmth.
Home is a conglomerate of experiences that come to exist in the bonds shared between people, contained in the memories of immobile objects that occupy a house, in the roads that are taken every day, and in the monotony of existence. It is a complex imagination created through associations, emotional attachments, experiences, and nostalgia. Swept Away Like Leaves invites the viewer to reflect on the ideas of estrangement through the notion of home and habitat, a desire for belonging shared by countless millions across the globe.
Firi Rahman’s (b. 1990, Sri Lanka) work is often concerned with the contentious relationship between humankind and the animal kingdom. He is particularly interested in the interactions between animals and urban environments, and the responsibility societies share in protecting biodiversity. His works, brought to life through his sombre and monochromatic style, are an intimate and sensitive engagement with wildlife. Even in their minimalism, the dexterity of his skill and close engagement with the subject imbues it with a palpable quality — compelling an empathetic response from the viewer. Firi earned a Foundation in Art and Design (2012) from City and Guilds at Manchester College in the United Kingdom. He is a cofounder of We Are From Here, a collective project which highlights a deeply interconnected community in Slave Island whose home-base is increasingly threatened by gentrification for state and corporate interests. Firi’s work has been exhibited at the Colombo Art Biennale (2016), and Colomboscope (2016 and 2019). His works belong to private collections in Sri Lanka, Switzerland, India, United Kingdom, and the USA. He was also selected for the Cité Internationales des Arts residency in France (2023).