Project For Empty Space is proud to announce the opening of Hiba Schahbaz: Self Portraits, a solo exhibition of paintings by Hiba Schahbaz. This exhibition is part of Project For Empty Space’s inaugural Feminist Incubator program, GRAB BACK. The exhibition will open to the public on Wednesday, April 5th, from 6-8 PM, 2 Gateway Center, Newark, NJ.

Hiba Schahbaz: Self Portraits is a collection of works that explore female identity through form and subversive questioning of “the gaze.” Schahbaz was formally trained in the Indo-Persian miniaturist style, a centuries old technique of narrative courtly painting in pre-Colonial South Asia. Traditionally, this type of painting was dominated by male artists; there is little evidence of female practitioners during its high period in South Asian from the early sixteenth through mid-nineteenth centuries. Women were frequently either the subjector ancillary ‘decorative’ figures. The way in which the female figure frequently functions in traditional Mughal miniature painting is in parallel to Western portraiture of a similar era, a topic which intrigues Schahbaz.

Employing her training in miniaturist technique and armed with the art history of male-dominated Western and South Asian portraiture, Schahbaz renders a pluralistic perspective of female identity. Both Shahbaz’s smaller, more intricate miniatures, and her newer life-sized portraits pull from well known voyeuristic depictions of women throughout Western art history. In Self Portraits, she borrows compositional structure from canonical images such as La Grande Odalisque by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, and Olympia by Edouard Manet. By replacing an idealized and idyllic European female with a contemporary woman of color, Schahbaz re-examines, re-contextualizes, and subverts the idea of representation itself. By placing herself in the position of author, subject, and object, she forces the viewer to question larger ideas of agency and ownership.

Within the context of the Project For Empty Spaces Grab Back program, Schahbaz’s work provokes discussions around issues of intersectionality and introduces a conversation around colonial and post-colonial marginalization of women of color. Her paintings beauty and grace fully explore the wider relationship between patriarchy and colonialism in both historical terms as well as in the contemporary cosmopolitan space.

Hiba Schahbaz was born and raised in Karachi. She received her BFA from the National College of Arts in Lahore, and her MFA from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York. Her work has been shown internationally, and written about in publications such as the Huffington Post, Hyperallergic, Vogue India, New York Magazine, and W Magazine, to name a few. Hiba Schahbaz lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.