Moving fluidly between abstraction and allegory, Pheobus Mumtaz’s graphic language is steeped in mythological and cosmological analogies. Her recent work meditates on the metaphysical symbolism of travel and the fact that every passage--spatial, temporal or ontological--is a confrontation with the ever-present reality of death.
Many of the artist’s recent works take inspiration from burial sites discovered along the historic Silk Road that once stretched from China to the Mediterranean. Travelers, a new series of drawings composed on surfaces of watermarked handmade paper and handwoven tussar silk, suggest fragmentary textile relics and abstracted human traces. A frieze-like companion work, Longboat, presents an enormous pictographic vessel evocative of ship burials uncovered in ancient Britain and Scandinavia.
On a more intimate scale, Pheobus Mumtaz employs materials and techniques culled from the traditions of sacred book arts. Constellations, a suite of 11 paintings selected from a larger ongoing series, depicts prayer beads using 24-karat illuminator’s gold on burnished handmade indigo paper. Like luminous artifacts, the beads are arranged in graceful shapes that recall guiding stars, calligraphic letterforms and cyclical paths through space.
Born in Maryland in 1982, Alyssa Pheobus Mumtaz attended Yale University (2004) and completed her MFA at Columbia’s School of the Arts (2008). Her work has been exhibited worldwide, including recent solo exhibitions at Jhaveri Contemporary, Mumbai, India (2014); Tracy Williams, Ltd., New York, NY (2012, 2009); La Caja Blanca, Palma de Mallorca, Spain (2012); and Bellwether, New York, NY (2009). Many of the works in the exhibition were made possible through the support of the Santa Fe Art Institute, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts and the Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation. A selection from her new project, Constellations, will be included in the upcoming Art on Paper 2014: The 43rd Exhibition at the Weatherspoon Art Museum in Greensboro, North Carolina. She currently lives and works between Charlottesville, Virginia and Lahore, Pakistan.
Look for my work in Grey Noise's booth at Art Dubai, March 19-22. The works on view will include selections from Origin, Departure, a collaboration with Murad Khan Mumtaz.
This March I am in residence at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts as a Creative Fellow of the Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation.
Jhaveri Contemporary is pleased to present Active Door, Alyssa Pheobus Mumtaz’s debut solo exhibition in India. The exhibition opens on the 20th of February and remains on view until the 22nd of March 2014.
Alyssa Pheobus Mumtaz’s practice is a poetic response to the exile of the contemplative. The works assembled in Active Door reflect her increasingly syncretic approach to abstraction and her deepening fascination with metaphysical spatial analogies. Ranging from monumental to intimate in scale, the works on paper that comprise the exhibition unfold within the liberating limitations of geometry and repetition. Through this concise abstract language, Pheobus Mumtaz seeks to pierce the veil of sensory experience and temporality. In other words, her work invokes the archaic in order to speak directly to the present.
If there is one pivotal archetype that animates the work presented in Active Door, it is a canoe afloat on vast, open darkness. Many of Pheobus Mumtaz’s geometric abstractions represent water as an angular visual rhythm; others allude to it through the sensual handmade indigo paper on which the images have been inscribed. The wayfaring vessel that haunts these works is, by nature, fragile and contingent, and yet its reflections offer no sense of drift. Instead, they constellate the boat that must be rowed with other symbolic keys that call for action: an obstacle to face; a door to enter; a ladder to climb; a guide to follow.
A new suite of drawings depicting prayer beads complements Pheobus Mumtaz’s meditative geometries. Arranged in constellations that mirror the symbolic language of her abstract work, the beads hover gracefully, as if suspended in the illuminated darkness of the night sky. These works attempt to represent contemplative attitudes that animate the activity of prayer. Each string of beads delineates a path through space and time that returns to a point of origin. This cycle is a symbolic reminder of the straight and ascending, yet mysteriously elliptical path of all spiritual effort.
Alyssa Pheobus Mumtaz (b.1982) is an American artist best known for her drawing practice. She attended Yale University and later completed her MFA at Columbia’s School of the Arts in New York City. Her recent work is strongly influenced by her experiences in Lahore, Pakistan, where she lived from 2010 to 2011, and her deep interest in traditional arts ranging from tribal textiles to Indian manuscript painting. She is currently based in Charlottesville, Virginia.