Member Spotlight: Saberah Malik
October 21, 2020
This month’s featured member spotlight is Saberah Malik, a Rhode Island-based artist who has created a unique method for forming dimensional cloth to seek a “symbiotic bond between contemporaneity and inherited cultural experiences.”
I grew up surrounded by rich textiles for everyday and for ceremonial usage, some belonging to my Mughal great-grandmother. Her 1909-1910 travelogue, Duniya Aurat ki Nazar Mein (The World in the Eyes of a Woman), inspired me to follow her footsteps from Hyderabad, her home in India, to the birthplace of her ancestors in Ferghana Valley, Central Asia, and beyond to Istanbul and Europe. Throughout my travels, coinciding with the launch of a fiber-art practice, I encountered an unending scope of architectural and textile patterns—patterns that expressed the divine within matter, explored the structural viability of materials and methods, and played with visual complexities of hue and form. I glimpsed universes of possibilities bridging my heritage and the modern world. Integrating a culture of devotion and ceremony through indigenously embellished Islamic textiles, I have found a forceful pathway to identify color and motifs for surface or sculptural work.
Growing up in a home with lettered women equally accomplished in needlecrafts, I continuously seek a symbiotic bond between contemporaneity and inherited cultural experiences. My art education was in an era of “less is more,” when decoration and ornamentation were banished to a place in antiquity. Yet, I paired a formal education of functional forms and parse minimalism in Graphic Design (BFA, MFA, University of the Punjab, Pakistan) and Industrial Design (MID, Pratt Institute, New York) with passed down training in needlecraft skills.
Environmental consciousness and a personal passion paved the way for a predominantly fiber-art practice. I learnt to tie engineering principles to fiber manipulation; using a self-evolved method initiated through my understanding of fiber manipulation in shibori techniques, I transmute flat fabric into dimensional forms. Time-intensive shibori and my proprietary crafting processes are both a labor of love, demanding exacting repetition in the hundreds to design large installations in patient industry.
I work with silk, cotton and polyester, each serving a purpose dependent on its particular strengths for color absorption or dimensional molding. Natural fabrics biodegrade, while polyester can be returned to its original state, as exemplified by Issey Miyake’s fashion-house. Limiting waste, I utilize every possible scrap, or re-configure fragile units into alternate iterations.
I design reverential patterns within a measured spatial order. Andy Warhol endowed iconic monumentality to pop objects through color and scale; I take objects like shoes, soup-cans or apples as molds, then predicate and explore them through my personal lens. In a suspension of disbelief, my crafting process enables transubstantiation of dense, often heavy artifacts, into weightless, almost holographic works.
In taking time to closely observe and absorb global social histories, environmental motifs and occurences, I imbue my art practice with intonations of friendship, compassion and generosity. Sensitivity to human and planetary conditions makes me a seeker, a thinker and a maker. Exploring diversity of surface and form, static geometry in mass production, subtle gesture and fluidity in natural shapes, I design ethereally luminous works of calm quietude as an antidote to, and respite from, global images of disease, destruction and mass migrations.