EXHIBITION - Building Biographies | The Guild (Aug 12-Sep 20, 2020) :

Building Biographies   

Gulammohammed Sheikh I Navjot Altaf I Ram Rahman I Riyas Komu

Exhibition from

5 August to 20 September 2020

Building Biographies1   

Gulammohammed Sheikh I Navjot Altaf I Ram Rahman I Riyas Komu

Building Biographies presents a selection of artworks by artists Gulammohammed Sheikh, Navjot Altaf, Ram Rahman and Riyas Komu. The exhibition is an attempt to map the way the architectural sites become citation grounds for reflecting on visual, spatial, political and environmental concerns for the artists.   

This exhibition looks at ‘biography’ as a set of layered meanings and metaphors that transform the architectural sites to a level of transcendence. The collection is an insight into how artists relate to these structures and their biographies. These artworks recount human endeavours and aspirations - the sites and structures bearing witness to decades and centuries of changing environments. Each of the artists deploys a distinct visual device to evoke compositions of the architectural spaces utilizing or referencing photography for creating visual intricacies in their interventions. The structures that embody the visions of the architects, engineers, and artisans are revisited through the artist's eyes where they dramatically re-emerge through the interplay of lines, patterns, light, shade, colour and texture. The massive and the minuscule manifest complementing each other. The political and social dimensions unfold slowly in the contemporary context.

Gulammohammed Sheikh

The photographs of Chandigarh Legislative Assembly shot by Gulammohammed Sheikh during his trip in 1966 are a statement on visual and aesthetic pleasures of scale, design and function. Sheikh playfully arrests the horizontal, vertical and diagonal lines and their interventions in these photographs. "Around late 1966 after I returned from a three-year stay in England, I saw a vacancy advertised for the post of lecturer in art history at Chandigarh College of Art. Bhupen (Khakhar) and I decided to apply because I was unemployed and Bhupen was fed up of his job as an accountant. Neither of us expected to land the job (and neither of us did), but we were keen to see Corbusier's architecture, and also to relish the visual bonus of Chandigarh Museum's famed collection of miniature paintings. So off we went to Chandigarh. I carried my Asahi Pentax K2 (SLR) with 35mm black and white and colour rolls of films. Having been to Ronchmp in France to see the amazing modern church Le Corbusier had designed, it was fascinating to see his vision of the new town with a fresh eye. I went about taking pictures of the iconic buildings but concentrated on the great monument, the Legislative Assembly." states Sheikh recounting this memorable trip.

Navjot Altaf

Series of drawings ‘How Perfect Perfection Can Be’ are broadly  inspired by the engineering /architectural perfection / scale and the visual pleasure artist experiences. And yet Navjot reflects upon the anthropogenic impact of the material and resource heavy development on ecology. A part of her larger project that explores the relationship between nature and the asymmetry introduced by urbanization in the context of complex environmental changes. The images are created using watercolours and superimposed with markings in the way of graphs depicting the energy consumption over a period.

Ram Rahman

Ram Rahman revisits some of the known buildings designed by distinguished architects from various Indian cities during the first few decades after the Indian independence. He reflects on the visions of the architectural legacy of modern India suggesting us to relook at these buildings under the new light of political conflict – to bring out changed meanings of the sites over time. Some of these photographs are part of his research on the modern architecture of Delhi through the lens of contemporary politics.

Riyas Komu

All architecture is a shelter. The shelter for the departed such as cemeteries becomes a subject of inquiry for Riyas Komu. He revisits the ruined burial grounds in Karachi capturing the decay enforced by time, natural forces and human factors. The photographs of these cemeteries with rows of abandoned tombstones speak about the impermanence nature of memorials. The tombs surrounded by broken walls and arches resonate how the built environment undergoes a cycle of decay becoming one with nature. The memories are buried and who knows of whose?


1 A building biography interprets architecture by focusing on the sequences of human activities and decisions that went into creating a building, using a building, and abandoning a building, part of a building, or a group of buildings.