River in an ocean: 6, 1993

Lala Rukh, River in an ocean: 6, 1993. Image courtesy of the Estate of Lala Rukh and Grey Noise, Dubai


The circumnavigation of a cultural practice as capacious as an ocean horizon, as fierce as a lone protest call, and as intimate as undulating contours of an evening raga is evidenced in the oeuvre of artist, activist and pedagogue Lala Rukh (1948-2017).

Lala Rukh: In the Round, the first major international survey of work by Lala Rukh, reflects on three decades of her drawing, printmaking, photography and video, produced against the backdrop of political turmoil and feminist movements in Pakistan. The artist’s poetic compositions depict horizons, lunar movements, bodies of water, coastlines and archaeological sites, capturing a gradient of rhythms through her pared-down vocabulary of lines, ciphers and blackness.

This exhibition features rarely seen works from the early years of her practice, alongside original posters, publications and interviews with her collaborators during the time she was championing gender justice and civic rights. In addition to key archival material, Lala Rukh: In the Round brings together works from the Sharjah Art Foundation Collection as well as lesser-known series from Sigiriya, Sri Lanka, and Pakistan’s Gadani shoreline. Her final work, Rupak (2016), which represents a seamless intertwining of mark making, musicality and silence, is also exhibited here for the first time in the region.

Viewed together, Lala Rukh’s artistic acts can be seen as defiant modes of time-keeping. This exhibition explores how the shaping of temporality takes varied forms across her life’s arc: the gradient of moonlight, a rising wave, tracings of coastal sands, collective reverberation in solidarity demonstrations, and the lucid contours of a living body.

Lala Rukh: In the Round is curated by Hoor Al Qasimi, Director of Sharjah Art Foundation, and Natasha Ginwala, co-curator of Sharjah Biennial 16 and Artistic Director of COLOMBOSCOPE, with Mahmoud El Safadi, Assistant Curator of Sharjah Art Foundation.