Tajasim Kalma series (2012), Mixed media on Aged paper or Wasli (handmade paper), 111x76cm. Exhibited at the Zahoor-ul-Akhlaq Gallery, NCA (National College of Art), Lahore,Pakistan.

Embodied Words

DECEMBER 11, 2013

Black figures dance across the aged paper, gracefully forming words. Arfan Javed Augustine’s latest series Tajasim Kalma or “Embodied Word” combines the use of both traditional calligraphy and the human figure to depict the capacity of words to give rise to tangible forms. The human body is seen acting upon the message that the words bring.


"Lost In Translation"(2012) at Ecole Nationale
Superieure des Beaux Art de Paris, France.
Arfan Javed is a Christian artist from Lahore, Pakistan. He was born to an artistically inclined family. Due to financial problems, his father and elder brother were not able to get a professional degree in the arts. Instead both of them encouraged him during his studies. Arfan finished his Bachelor in Fine Arts in and MA (Hons.) in Visual Arts from the National College of Arts in Lahore, Pakistan. As a sensitive member of the society, he deems it his responsibility to tackle socio-political and religious concerns. While his familiarity with Christian writings helped him see parallelisms between contemporary social issues and stories from the Bible.

He has since produced a number of series that were influenced by these themes: “Death and Resurrection” (2002), “Wilderness I” (2007) “Wilderness II” (2009) “Protect”, “Cyclic” and “Assassination” in 2011, “Cuts and Wounds” in 2011, “Lost in Translation”, “Mindscape” and “Marr Nahee Payyar” (With Love, not with Punishment)in 2012, and finally “Tajasim Kalma” from 2012 & 2013.

One of the passages that was used as a reference in the Embodied Word series was Matthew 15:11 “What enters the mouth does not pollute a person, but what comes out of the mouth pollutes a person.” Here Arfan recognizes the power of words. He says that a word cannot be uttered without having some impact on our physical, emotional or spiritual state. A seemingly innocent remark can be taken as a compliment or an insult.

Two pieces from the "Lost in Translation"series (2012) series.
Mixed media on Newspaper

He likens the word to a seed. It requires a receptive environment that will nurture the message, and assure that the idea it espouses is passed. The environment upon which this seed grows may vary depending on the context of the receiver. Even words that were explicitly meant with good intentions can be manipulated to justify wrongdoing.

Another series that also dealt with the power of words (or the lack of it) is “Lost in Translation” (title taken from Sofia Coppola’s film). This series resulted from his experience as an exchange student while studying at prestigious art Institute Ecole Nationale Superieure des Beaux Art de Paris, France. He felt a profound culture shock, as it was his first time in Europe. He also experienced loneliness, as he was unable to communicate properly due to the lack of language skills. During his residence, he was often asked about the country of origin (Pakistan) and its media representation as a terrorist country.

In this series, Arfan used French newspaper clippings with some words and images covered. This expresses his feeling “as a foreigner who cannot communicate the beauty of the culture and history of Pakistan.” According to him: “If we do not reflect on the social reality from which this images come from, the media will only provoke more conflict… It is not easy to distinguish who are terrorists and who are victims of terrorism.”

Once words are released, they become independent entities capable of creating various meanings and outcomes. The speaker can only be too fortunate to assure that they remain true to his/her intentions. The ink figures in Arfan’s compositions are in a state of flux. Perpetually in the act of dancing and changing into different forms. The power of words are not intrinsic but dependent on the interpretation of the person who receives the message. Words are but tools for communication. Lack of careful analysis may lead to chaos and anarchy but true understanding can lead to progress and well-being.