Born in Libya, Fawad Khan is a Pakistani-American painter based in New York. His first solo exhibition debuts March 13 at 33 Bond Gallery in New York.
My new work depicts extravagant, yet flameless explosions. These media-inspired renderings of soldiers are fragmented and joined with those of vintage, foreign-model automobiles inspired by memories of my early upbringing in Libya and Pakistan.
I was born on a Libyan military base while my father, a major in the Pakistani Army Medical Corp, was on contract there. Raised in Karachi, Pakistan, I moved to the States at the age of eight. As an adult, I have found myself fascinated with images from the oppressive and aggressively militaristic cultures of my past. Certainly media-saturation of the current war has contributed to my obsession.
Working on paper and canvas in the past, I have recently begun expanding my designs to envelope entire rooms or cover exterior surfaces. I’ve also introduced chili peppers and pomegranates—symbols from my childhood—as formal design elements depicting motion, and in some cases, hinting at calligraphic writing. The cars are all rendered from personal reference—a Citroën I used to see on Greene Street, a Peugeot 504 from my father’s military days in Libya in the 70s, a commuter bus I photographed on the busy streets of Karachi.
In a recent work, Go Postal (We Deliver For You), I depict two U.S. mail trucks to raise the issue of car bombing, a form of violence usually associated with the Middle East, from a domestic perspective. Instead of witnessing the explosive impact of such an event on foreign-model autos in a foreign land, one is presented with the vision of it occurring to a vehicle from a United States government agency on any street in America.
Though my recent work plays on the visceral undertones of the current political climate, my goal is to ensure that the political content is not too overt. My explosions are violent, but they are bloodless. They are chaotic, but they are choreographed. I think ambiguity is an important element of my work. If a piece answers all of a viewer’s questions, what kind of continued relationship can remain between that person and the artwork? I prefer to hear what the viewer’s background or experience brings to the picture in order to complete the conversation.