Elephant Magazine – Performance Anxiety: Zoobs Ansari’s Portraits Expose Fame’s False Glamour

“I feel like everybody performs on a daily basis, even when they go to work. Everyone puts away their vulnerabilities, and it’s a façade.”

In his collages, photography and videos, the artist reveals the tension and turmoil that simmers away behind our public personas.

Zoobs Ansari’s work provocatively captures the anxieties and dynamics of our contemporary culture. His new show, Insanity Fair at Elephant West, not only infers references to iconic artists of the past but also to our current obsession with persona and the darker side of fame. Memories from his childhood, both in London and Pakistan, infiltrate his hybrid aesthetic, from the trauma of his father’s death when he was only eight years old to his childhood attraction to the glamour of American TV programmes such as Dallas and Dynasty and his move to Pakistan aged ten. The artist, known professionally simply as Zoobs, takes Andy Warhol’s famous line, “in the future everyone will be world famous for fifteen minutes”, and dramatically uses it as a visual metaphor.

 

Ashes to Ashes, from the Word Search series, 2013

Drawing provided an “escape into another world”, but it was his training at Kingston University in graphic design, and an opportunity presented after graduation to work for the makeup brand Shiseido in Paris, that led him eventually to his path as a fine artist and his particular vision. Zoobs’s distinctive bodies of work touch a nerve. When he felt that his portraits were becoming “too clean and crisp” he began to deconstruct them, creating collages (a medium he has utilized since childhood) then reconstructing them by overlaying with painting or lettering. In his work Ashes to Ashes (2013), part of his Word Search series, a bright hyperreal David Bowie is overlaid with individual letters, the fractured lyrics of his song a device to make us “focus more on the portrait subject”.

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