Reading Between the Lines

Unum Babar and Matt Kushan


29 July - 10 September 2017

Many Studios invited Unum Babar and Matt Kushan to take part in a 4-week residency at The Gallow Gate between 5 July – 3 August. The artists have spent their time in residence exploring Glasgow as a twin city to Lahore, the city in which they currently reside, to create an exhibition of new, collaborative work.

Their collaborative process as artists draws from the intercultural nature of their personal relationship and the differences with which they understand the world; as a Pakistani woman and an American man. The city of Glasgow provided another point of departure within this inquiry examining multiple questions of popular culture, language, architecture, and city spaces.

The works shown within the gallery reflect upon Babar and Kushan's reading of the city as outsiders and tells a particular story of nostalgia, consumerism, perceptions of social and physical order through architecture, colour, material and photography. The artists formed their primary responses through a repetitive, daily commute from their accommodation in Maryhill to their studio in the Barras Market. By abstracting repeating colours and recreating existing surfaces, the artists have portrayed the uniformity and noiselessness of our city in direct contrast to the chaoticness of Lahore, both the aesthetics of architecture and the frequency of daily life.

Through a series of found objects purchased at the Barras Market, the artists found themselves characterising the market in which The Gallow Gate sits within. These objects axle the exhibition and create a directional journey for the viewer. Through that journey, the viewer is led to discover new work, recreating the spontaneity of objects within the market, but also referencing what they considered to be uncommon modes of display in pitches across the marketplace.

This reference to display reoccurs in the artists’ use of the large shopfront windows on the street facing wall, where three large-scale prints present a retail frontage in reference to the surrounding shop units in the Barras Market whilst also creating a connection to a shared aesthetic between Lahore and Glasgow with the incorporation of arabic lettering.

Through these works, and widely across the exhibition, 'Reading Between the Lines' explores the intersections between two contrasting cities; traditional and new media; nature, objects and buildings; nostalgia and reality; and the historical and contemporary culture of the Barras Market.

In contrast to a unifying response to a new city, the artists methodology for creating collaborative work finds strength in the diversity of their practices and personal backgrounds. Throughout the residency, the artists have developed a making practice that is conversational – in some instances, Kushan would take a photograph, passing the image onto Babar who would manipulate and contort the print, passing it back again to consider the documentation of that manipulation, and then back again to re-manipulate and contextualise the work against found objects and materials. This conversation has created a depth of perception and exploration that brings three short weeks of research to a resounding interpretation of Glasgow through new eyes.


Matt Kushan and Unum Babar met and began their collaborative practice at Massachusetts College of Art and Design in Boston where they both completed an MFA. Before going to the U.S. as a Fulbright scholar, Unum attained a BFA from Beaconhouse National University in Lahore, Pakistan, while Matt completed his BFA at the School of Visual Arts in New York. Both artists have independent, multidisciplinary practices working in photography, video and installation, and digital and interactive media. They are both currently living and working in Lahore as Assistant Professors at the School of Visual Arts and Design, Beaconhouse National University.   |

This project is supported by the National Lottery through Creative ScotlandGlasgow City Council and Pidgin PerfectMany Studios has partnered with Newspaper Club to print one of the art works in Reading Between The Lines.