This was originally written for  Emirates Business 24/7, and can be found here:

The distinguishing factor between art and random scribbles is the underlying thought process; particularly for abstract art that rarefies expression to the point that conjecture is necessary. Pakistani artist Fahd Burki’s latest exhibition, Prostheses, is no exception.

With Burki’s work, the thought behind the art is obfuscated, at least according to the artist. He is not a forthcoming interpreter because he insists viewers’ perceptions should define his work. Deprived of a helpful narrator, the spectator must allow interpretation to take over.

I hazarded a guess or three.

Fahd Burki’s work is nothing if not definitive even in its abstraction. There are obvious contrasts between the pristine, almost puritanical, backgrounds and the gloom of the superimposed objects. In some cases, the colour scheme is reversed, but never is it done away with. Hues and gradations are not Burki’s style.

The objects themselves are interesting metaphors. At first instance, they are very gender stereotypical, almost misogynist, in their exactitude. Angular objects rise up, while curved u-shaped ones sit – or lie – submissively to attention. But Burki demurs. He notes that it may well be my internal conflicts rising to the fore in the neutrality of his work.

Burki is interested in the interplay between the physique and technology. How so? Technology can enhance life by acting as an extension of the physique and the mind: it becomes a ‘prosthesis’. Yet in doing so, it emasculates, even dehumanises us, leaving our bodies useless without technological appendages. Does Burki’s art explore that?

He says it can if the viewer wants it to, commending me on an interesting point. But that was never the aim, for I want to be able to commend him on his worldview if I can but fathom it. The one thing Burki is certain of, as I furiously wave a previous review of his work at him, is that his work is not phenomenological.

Phenomenology talks about how objects ‘feel’ to us; how we experience them. Nothing is neutral. When we interact with objects, we talk about them through our consciousness. Despite my ardent prodding, Burki is quite dismissive of the phenomenologists. So will I be, for his sake.

The hidden layers behind his rigid presentation might be a discussion never to conclude. But Burki certainly represents a departure from the world of landscapes and calligraphic living room art, and his work is a breath of fresh air for the city’s art scene. Burki’s technological critiques adorn the walls of the Jam Jar until mid-April, and are worth seeing. They are not cheap, for gendered abstractions and prosthetic flights of fancy apparently command a premium. But I would purchase a piece, would my budget allow, merely for its power to inspire dispute.