Visual art has the responsibility of stimulating the viewer effortlessly at first glance. Such art should be able to captivate its viewers and tell them a story without using any vocabulary or action. As an artist, one aims to pour all emotions and passion into a blank canvas and confess their experiences for others to live.
Mohsin Taasha is one such artist who uses his fierce dedication and talent for painting to spread awareness about the dark and damp world of war. Born in Kabul in 1991, Taasha began his collection, The Rebirth of the reds, after the 2016 suicide attacks in Deh Mazang in Kabul, in which Taasha lost friends and students. The attack left him dumbfounded and embittered at how easy it was to just target and commit mass murder of innocent people with little or no accountability for their lives. Taasha manifested his feelings into art and made it his mission to raise awareness the best way he could and symbolize death and target killings.
Taasha’s paintings align with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal of encouraging Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions. The message in Taasha’s work promotes peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, pleads to provide access to justice for all, and builds effective, accountable, and inclusive institutions at all levels. The message in his collection is loud and clear: blindly killing innocent people after power, hate, and politics cannot be tolerated in a thriving society.
According to Taasha, his works are born from the “social and political issues of society that are full of injustice, desire for tribal power, and the dominance of majorities over minorities,” as he shared with Art at a time like this.
“I, using the very specified symbols of expression, picture the current tumultuous world where all the people live under oppression and injustice. I observe time, elegance, and simplicity more than every other detail in my works, and I strive for a unique recognition and form in my works.”
To emphasize the brutality of such mass killings, Taasha uses vibrant and piercing hues of red to get his message across. The viewer witnesses in full form silhouettes of those murdered wrapped in cloth, seemingly drenched in blood. Taasha reminds one that when such heinous attacks occur, nothing is left behind and no one is spared. Life is taken from hundreds, and the only thing left is pain, anguish, and the colour red.
The series of paintings in the collection is a reflection of what Taasha witnessed when he visited Deh Mazang after the attack. Taasha aims to evoke the sensitivity of the viewer by triggering all the senses. If you study Taasha’s paintings long enough, the colour red is not just a hue; it’s a reminder of the amount of blood that was witnessed at the scene. One can smell and almost taste the blood in his paintings.
The silhouettes can be seen adorned in different poses, very much reminiscent of someone in mourning or distress. The body language of the figures shows their discomfort and stress; perhaps Taasha is commenting on not only the state of those who passed away but also those left behind. They are silenced and helpless in front of those who decide to wage a war and take hundreds of lives.
The tapestries in Taasha’s paintings are also very vivid and true to the traditional culture of Kabul. His paintings' artistic technique is so flawless that one can almost imagine touching and feeling the thickness of the carpets, drenched in blood. The decorative use of Arabic in the paintings is a reference to the Quranic calligraphy that is true to the people of Islam. This is a reminder as to whom the war is against and what faith is targeted in such incidents.
The aftermath of an incident, such as a suicide attack, can have a very heavy impact on the mental health and well-being of society. It can shatter the very foundation of belief and the thought of how fleeting life becomes a reality. That is the realization that Taasha wants his audience to come to when they see his paintings. The portraits of the people in his paintings, however faceless, could adorn the faces of anyone labelled or targeted. The figures are not only dressed in cloth but also wrapped against their will, making them trapped and helpless.