When and how did you start painting?
I started painting at a very young age by recreating iconic art and posters that I admired, experimenting with different mediums and styles. My grandparents encouraged my initial creativity in adolescence, but as I grew older, my parents exposed me to a world of travel, art museums, and famous works of art. Deeply inspired by the art that I saw on our world travels, I took up art in high school and won a citywide art contest. Encouraged by my newfound success, I recognized art as my passion and chose to continue pursuing art as a life long career. I enrolled in a foundation year at the Corcoran College of Art in Washington D.C. and later transferred to the Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture in Karachi, where I took up painting as my major.
Which artists inspire you? What art movements do you identify with?
The surrealist works of Salvador Dali have always inspired me. I would buy and read any book on Dali while growing up, immersing myself in his creative process, his conceptual identity and the dreamlike visions he would create. Later on in college, I was exposed to the portraiture works and disturbed prints of Francisco Goya, as well as the distressed paintings of Edward Munch, Francis Bacon and the distorted figurative art of Egon Schiele. These artists inspired me by their representations of complex human emotion via untraditional and timeless masterpieces that disclosed the darkest corners of the human mind.
As my work began to develop and take on a more spiritual tone, I began researching artists who used symbolic Sufism in their art and was inspired by the works of Irani artist Shireen Nishat and Shirazeh Houshiary. Both artists address issues surrounding contemporary Islamic culture in a thought provoking and ingenious manner, often forcing the audience to reflect on their own spiritual journey and the surrender of one’s ego.
As an artist, I identify with the Symbolism Art Movement of the late 1880’s, where art reflected an emotion or an idea rather than representing the natural world in the objective. Such artwork emerged from the recreation of emotional experiences through colour, line, and composition. My artwork can therefore be seen as a representation of form and feeling of reality and inner subjectivity.
Your paintings usually have a bird. What does this signify?
The birds in my paintings signify freedom, limitlessness and transcendence. In one sense, the migratory nature of birds symbolizes my own migratory nature and need for freedom - as I have spent most of my life moving from country to country, seeking and absorbing the complexities of the world around me. At another level, birds take on a more spiritual connotation in my paintings, reflecting my spiritual awareness, growth and journey over the years. At the heart of this concept lies inspiration from an epic poem by Farid Uddin Attar known as ‘Conference of Birds,’ which uses birds to describe, metaphorically, the use of themes such as the examination of the self, the failings of the self and the search for guidance from within the self.
What can be done to bring art into homes of Pakistanis? Presently collectors in Pakistan are a very small number.
The only way to bring more art into homes in Pakistan is by creating more awareness about art and artists. There is a variety of ways through which we can create such awareness, many of which are already being done. For example, we should promote enhanced digital marketing of art (via online art galleries, social media platforms), utilizing art consultants to bridge the gap between home-owners and artists, promoting art forums or art festivals across cities, building networking groups that connect art enthusiasts of all kinds, and connecting art with community outreach and engagement.
Any other point you wish to highlight.
I feel art enthusiasts and artists are doing a great job at bringing about awareness of art and artists, particularly through the Karachi and Lahore Biennale. By introducing such a forum, emerging artists are given a platform to be recognized by art collectors. More so, such events capsize on how art has the potential to be accessible and appreciated by people from all walks of life, as well as seamlessly blended with local culture and heritage, while instilling a sense of change and togetherness within the community as a whole. I think it is essential that all artists and art enthusiasts continue to promote such forums to implement lasting progress for the art community in Pakistan.