Drawing Voices From a Well of Silence — Two Illustrative Works by Khytul Abyad
July 04, 2020

Emerging Kashmiri artist Khytul Abyad brings us two of her illustrative works that can be viewed as standalone pieces or part of a greater patchwork that tells the story of her birthplace. Khytul has operated exclusively in the realm of Kashmiri contemporary art since her recent days as a student, working as a visual artist exploring different mediums and styles to develop a visual vocabulary of her own. Here she presents two pieces that venture into the realm of storytelling via illustration in line with the graphic novel. At the present, the graphic novel has yet to move beyond Sajad’s quintessential “Munnu” that set the stage, with other younger artists exploring the genre and medium through their own visual language and stylistic approaches to visual storytelling. Other visual storytellers who produce comics, political cartoons and illustrations have long maintained their signature styles and visual language without ever having the need or the desire to go into this long-form medium.

Such creative choices notwithstanding within that limited genre, another graphic novel, Naseer Ahmed’s “Kashmir Pending” with illustrations by India Today’s illustrator Suarabh Singh has followed as a work by multiple creators, Kashmiri and non-Kashmiri, reflecting the many directions that the Kashmir-themed or Kashmir-set graphic novel can take. However, as far as a graphic novel by one author and that too a young woman artist is concerned, Khytul’s artistic explorations presented here show promise in broadening the genre of the Kashmiri graphic novel even further, with an amplified diversification of sorts brought about in just over half a decade. With such considerations in mind, here are two storyboarded tales of fiction that permeate into a reality that is all too familiar to many Kashmiris. Such stories are located within the forgotten corridors of Kashmir’s everyday life, remaining unexpressed, silenced and made invisible up until young artists like Khytul engage their artistic sensibilities and artcraft to excavate the memory, experiences, and the lives of others, otherwise relegated to oblivion and brought to the fore by artistry such as Khytul Abyad’s.

This piece includes a note from the artist and relevant links from press  (courtesy of Inverse's bibliographic approach) to familiarize viewers/readers about this young artist's work.

Artist's Note

My practice and research are about documenting human emotions in a violent and inhumane space. In a state of violence that is inflicted, I believe that at a certain stage the perpetrator ceases to exist. Rather, the aftereffects of such a violence are the markers and residue of such a perpetrator having existed in the first place. To a human entrapped in such an ordeal, the politics of the social being in them becomes too alien of an idea. And all that is left behind is an aching, suffering body.

This was a thought, or rather a realisation that came to me during the lockdown of 2019. To explore and implement it in my art, instead of simply looking at the present, I decided to go back in time and work with stories that I had heard from strangers as a child or remembered from my past. These were the stories of people who no longer existed in my memory as persons but as the protagonists, as characters in the stories they were narrated into or placed at the centre of.

Memory, I believe is something that needs to be re-imagined, and the stories from past, retold, since every day here open up to a different reality. These are the stories of people whose only politics is or was their body and the distance between their past and present self. People who could not luxuriate in the annunciatory power of speech yet endured perhaps what was the worst, as far as violence and its perpetration is concerned, in silence.

I attempted to push my artistic and literary sensibilities, hoping to alter the viewer/reader’s perception in a way that transports them urgently to the internal time and space of experiences that my work embodies and is inscribed within.

Through my work, I intend to create for the viewer/reader a bridge between their political/social identities and the human visceral self.

The Two Words

Ruby

Relevant Press

In Kashmir, the paintbrush becomes an alternative tool for protest - Christian Science Monitor

Two artists, separated by generations and their experiences of their contested homeland, share an impetus to record a season of protest and violence.

Songs of the wounded - India Today

Twenty five years of terror, alienation, exile. Kashmir's art echoes the rage. And is now demanding a stage to vent it. The Srinagar Biennale will be a first step.

What stories do we explore through art? A visitor searches for the answer at the Kochi Biennale - Scroll.in

From Shilpa Gupta’s installation to Prabhakar Pachpute’s wood cutouts, each artwork sparks an idea, a reference, a memory.

Kashmiri Artists’ ‘Act of Resistance’ Against Indian Occupation - TeleSur English

Khytul is an artist who has tried to capture Kashmir conflict through her often vibrant, often macabre paintings.

Kashmiris master the ‘art’ of resisting Indian rule - The Express Tribune

With changing dynamics, creative resistance becoming part of larger political movement for right to self-determination

A diverse spectrum - Daily Times

Khytul Abyad’s work combines social-political and philosophical context to the bodily experience of spirituality. She explores the idea of the dichotomy of social and ethereal experience of her living around shrines and religious structures in Kashmir, where reality and belief often go in contrast and one leads to reconcile with the other. She intends to present the viewer with an experience that is sensory, sentimental and practical.

ARTPapier-mâché coffins and smell of death: Transferring lived experiences though art as a medium - Free Kashmir Press

Khytul is an artist who has tried to capture Kashmir conflict through her often vibrant, often macabre paintings.

Kashmir: A paradise lost to violence and bloodshed - The Daily O

Kashmir has faced unspeakable crimes, and it would be a sin to forget them. The Srinagar Biennale pavilion in the Kochi Festival does the opposite. It remembers, laments and somehow, celebrates.

How a fallen Chinar has become the mouthpiece of these Kashmir University students

'While a section of the youth expresses through stone pelting, another section uses art to show their resistance. This film is about them.'

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About the Contributor

Khytul Abyad is a visual artist who works and writes about the toll of conflict on life in Kashmir. She graduated with a Bachelor’s of Fine art (Applied Art) from Kashmir University (2016) and pursued her postgraduate degree in Art and Design from Beaconhouse National University in Lahore (2019). She participated in the Kochi-Muziris biennale in 2014 and in 2018, when she was also part of the group show “Concourse” held in Srinagar. She also participated in the inaugural show of Gallerie One in Srinagar. There have been times in her artistic career when the idea of making art seemed futile, considering how the everyday was entrapped in a situation of life, injury and death in Kashmir, and how because of this, there was no audience for her work. She believes in and intends to work for creating new spaces for herself and her fellow artists in Kashmir. In 2017, she organized a group show entitled 'Sifer' which brought together artists from different genres to showcase their work collectively under one roof. Between 2019 and 2020, she worked as a resident artist at Guru Scholars' Program in Buffalo, New York. She is currently doing independent research in Kashmir.