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01st February 2023 Costi Levy (2019, Philosophy and Spanish)

Routes of Desire: Emery Prize winner Saba Qizilbash’s work exhibited at Pembroke College

An exhibition of award-winning art by Exeter College alumna Saba Qizilbash (2021, MFA) is taking place at Pembroke College. Costi Levy (2019, Philosophy and Spanish) visited the exhibition.

There is something very special about seeing the work of Saba Qizilbash (2021, Master of Fine Art) fill a space. There are eight works in her carefully curated exhibition on Brewer Street. Each piece is distinct, varying in colour, size and medium: an orange-tinted pencil drawing on a large roll of paper hangs next to ‘A Brief Visual History of the Battle of Ichhogil Bund’, a miniature glass book, in which her drawings are encased. In the middle of the room sits Qizilbash’s version of a pair of 17th-centruy spectacles, named Astana-ye-Ferdous, in which her drawings are also embedded. Despite their differences, Qizilbash’s distinctive style pervades through each piece, creating an immersive and unified visual experience.

Saba Qizilbash is an award-winning artist (Emery Prize (2022), Mansfield-Ruddock Art Prize (2022), UC Berkeley South Asia Artist Prize (2022)) who creates detailed photographic landscapes, which collapse time, history and narrative, tracing global migration, borders and trade routes. Following her success last year, Pembroke College are currently exhibiting some of Qizilbash’s pieces. The exhibition has been organised in association with the Pembroke College Art Collection, founded by Anthony Emery in 1947. The collection now numbers over 350 artworks, and has a purpose-built gallery space. It aims to display the work of talented emerging artists.

Describing the exhibition, Qizilbash comments, ‘I equate walking to drawing and through my landscapes I walk through difficult landscapes. Past no man’s lands, borders, checkpoints, disputed territories, I aspire for a seamlessness where trade, culture, language and heritage can flow freely’.

Saba Qizilbash | Routes of Desire is open until 7 February, from 12-2pm on weekdays, and 12-4pm on weekends. The gallery is on 5 Brewer Street and admission is free.


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