Tahir Karmali: Bound between Cliffs

Circle Art Gallery, 31 August to 1 October 2022

We are pleased to present Tahir Karmali’s first solo show at Circle Art Gallery. This body of work shows a mix of cleverly adorned silk tapestries and screen prints which focus on the migration and transformation of materials across geographies and economies. This exhibition uses print, textiles, sculptures and sound to create a multi-sensory experience for the viewer. 

Karmali is primarily an investigator of materials and vernacular design. Living and working in New York he focuses on the underlying source of the material as currency, as markers of cultural identity or as an exploitable artifact. Transforming these materials into varying formats (sculptural installations, prints, textile works) that are deceptively beautiful and attractive, as an art form and allowing the viewer to savour them as primary material before a layer of trauma (of migration, of displacement, of labour) slowly reveals itself. Tahir’s work is based not only on his personal experiences of migration and immigration but also how certain elemental materials simultaneously transit through diverse cultures and are thus transformed, according to their use in each space, especially in the art world. 

Combining digital photography and portraiture with paper making, Karmali deals directly with the material to craft concepts around the process and manipulate how the portrait is presented. Using this method to discuss nationality, authenticity, documentation and borders for migrant populations in Africa, his work echo’s his own Indian-Kenyan heritage and his colonial migrant narratives. Using silk fibres as a way to represent the body, his work seeks to express the effects of the violence inflicted on us. In the various constructions in the gallery, Karmali creates tension between steel sheets, silk fabrics and metal bolts piercing the fabric. As silk is naturally a weightless fibre, though very strong, the contrast of the delicateness of the sil draws attention to the aggressiveness of the metal. 

Karmali received a Masters degree in digital photography from The School of Visual Arts in New York in 2015. After numerous solo exhibition and group show success in various countries, including (selected) Water Scarcity: Perpetual Thirst in 2022 at Wave Hill, New York in 2022, Heimaten, Museum für Gewerbe, Hamburg in 2021, Omniscient: Queer Documentation in an Image Culture, Leslie-Lohman Museum of Art, New York 2021, Second Careers, Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, Ohio, 2020, Paper Boarders, IPCNY, New York, 2019. In 2019, he was one of the artists commissioned to create work following the inaugural Open Call for The Shed Museum in New York. Recent residencies include; the Montelo artist residency in Nevada 2020 and the Watermill Centre, New York State in 2021.