Huma Bhabha is a mixed media artist and self-taught sculptor. Bhabha was born in Pakistan in 1962. She grew up experiencing the rippled after-effects of partition, colonialism and alienation. Her work explores those emotions through monstrous archetypes that she calls ‘characters’. She learned to create three-dimensional art through taxidermy. I assume that any squeamishness about body parts she might have had was lost during that time.
Bhabha’s work draws on history and science fiction (one piece is called Ripley, after the hero of the Alien films). Her work has a monumental quality. This was a virtual visit due to lockdown; I would have preferred to have visited in person to experience the physical size of the characters. I was reminded of an exhibition of art and costumes from Star Wars years ago. I felt a physical shock on encountering a life-sized Darth Vader in an alcove. It was artfully lit and menacing. Bhabha’s forms have that same quality of looming menace, which could only be heightened by seeing them in person.
I’m not a fan of ugly art, but I can only admire Babha’s clever use of media. She draws on the techniques of the Italian Arte Povera movement to combine an array of cheap, found objects like styrofoam, clay, wood and animal bones to build her characters. I also appreciate her clever mix of styles. Her influences include ideas from antiquity, classical art as well as Cubism and the Fauvists. Her results are powerful and moving. I could do worse than try to build some of that into my own work.