Seher Shah, Notes from a City Unknown (detail), 2021
Working across drawing, printmaking, sculpture, and writing, Seher Shah creates artworks that speak to the poetics of how we perceive what’s around us, exploring the abstraction of space through states of absence, fragility, and fragmentation. Over the course of several years, she has been writing small notes on the city of New Delhi. These unfinished stories capture moments of connection and distance, where forms and structures become markers of time and memory. Notes from a City Unknown (2021) comprises 32 compositions on paper that distill these collected moments through relationships between form and language.
In Notes from a City Unknown, Shah furthers her studies on absence within her surrounding landscape between the visible and the unseen, learning to listen to the city through the fragments it reveals. With titles such as “City of Privacy,” “City of Quiet Witness,” “City of Broken Light,” or “City of Desires,” to name a few, each composition includes abstracted architectural perspective drawings and small notes filled with obscure references to fractured histories and their erasure. Minor marks on the surface of each work retain the traces of time. Set against a backdrop of a brutal nationalism and pervasive surveillance, these notes are a record of her time in a city that is at once distant and familiar. By putting words in tension with abstractions of a negative space, Shah has created another cartography for a city that falls somewhere between the real and imagined. She writes: “There are cities within a city. And an unknowable measure of distance between things.”