Past Islamabad Event: VOL 1

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@ VOL 1 ON JAN 27, 2018

Alia Bilgrami demonstrates how the notion of displacement is featured heavily in her practice.

Initially Alia used cardboard boxes and maps to visually translate the feeling. After extensive research, she later settled on the tulip as an icon. As a flower, its history stems from Persia and Turkey, where it was first cultivated as early as 1000 AD, and as a symbol it represented love in paintings and literature. Later, in the 17th century, it was appropriated by Western Europe and the Netherlands, where, with the spread of ‘Tulip Mania,’ it came to epitomize capitalism. Tulip bulbs were the first items that were bought and sold in a system that formed the first semblance of the stock exchange, as we know it today. 

Like people, the tulip was essentially first displaced, and then appropriated. What it represented in the east – beauty, poetry and love was completely different from what it represented in the west. Talia’s work speaks of this dichotomy. Having grown up in both Canada and Pakistan, her artwork often expresses this duality – the simultaneous feeling of belonging and of being scattered, that translocation often brings. She enjoys using labour intensive media such as photo emulsion prints, miniature painting, solar-plate etchings and other analogue photography techniques, often combining many mediums. 

Many artists, especially miniaturists, have used the tulip before her for aesthetic reasons, and she is certain that many more will use it in the years or decades to come. But for Talia, the tulip is personal. In a way, sometimes her tulips are like self-portraits that evoke her own sense of dislocation. Now more than ever, displacement is a global phenomenon that is all around us – a subject that we are faced with every day and feels more relevant than ever before, to address in her practice.

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Studio Space

@ VOL 1 ON JAN 27, 2018

"I found a great bit of relation between Japanese manga and Persian miniatures."

In Studio Space from PechaKucha Night Islamabad Vol. 1, Amna Hashmi presents about her fascination for the miniature art technique. Her passion for graphic art and story narration has prompted her to combine the contemporary miniature art style, manga, anime and book art to create her own unique style.

Amna's favourite album portfolios of old miniatures pertain to adventurous exploits and fables, like the ‘Hamzanama,’ ‘Kalilah wa Dimnah’ and ‘Anwar-e-Suhayli,’ where fantasy and reality mix in an engaging storyline. She is particularly drawn to Persian miniature and its incorporation of Chinese and Japanese features and brush techniques. She can also trace her own interest in Japanese anime and the-manga series through this link.

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@ VOL 1 ON JAN 27, 2018

In her presentation, Seyhr Qayum shares her current studio practice and the concepts that inform her art-making decisions. 

Conceptually, Seyhr's art is largely about cross-cultural exchange, and her perception of the differences between liberal and conservative societies. She combines representational portraiture and figurative illustrations, with elements of abstraction. 

The idea of women empowerment is a focus in Seyhr's artworks. She has seen both the liberal and conservative side of life, and therefore has a fair idea of what it means to be a woman in both these worlds. All her work portrays Pakistani women as strong, empowered members of the society rather than stale and stereotypical illustrations. Her life-sized paintings of empowered female figures, such as ‘Here’s Looking at You, Kid,’ where a woman boldly stares back at you, encapsulate the idea of showing Pakistani women as strong and capable rather than submissive or troubled beings.

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Encounter my Woodblock Prints

@ VOL 1 ON JAN 27, 2018

While working with the Japanese medium of water-based colour woodblock prints, Dr. Shahida Mansoor's interest in her traditions and arts became renewed and strengthened. Her encounter with Japanese woodblock print - and as a result, a renewed interest in her own traditions - is not terminus in the sense that she is not a traditionalist in her expression.

In the case of her work, done during the period of her seven year stay in Japan and afterwards in Europe, Dr. Mansoor adopted a kind of oriental approach which is not that of a traditionalist but of a modernist. Interrelation of two traditions and technical skill achieved in one has fueled her modern soul.

Dr. Mansoor's works are not a return to the bygone times, similarly they are without intention of bridging gaps between those two traditions. Her carved in lines are free and uninhibited and thus stimulate fantasy of the viewer to psychological games.

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Between Idea and Reality

@ VOL 1 ON JAN 27, 2018

Dr. Tabassum Shaheen is influenced greatly by nature and natural elements, and her work revolves around this inspiration. She produces intricate and complex pen and ink drawings that represent the multilayered aspects of reality in nature or at least the perception of it. 

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Journey of the Nafs

@ VOL 1 ON JAN 27, 2018

Nazia Akram worked on very personal concepts, while taking inspiration from everything around her. Her work often consists of abstracts, and this time she explained her work to be a ‘personal labyrinth.’ She treats her art pieces as experimental depictions of her actual surroundings. Her painting ‘Fight or Flight,’ is such an intricate combination of the real and the abstract - appearing like a painting of the outer space at first glance, until one begins to notice all the birds. The way she has merged the real world with her own imaginary one is quite alluring, and one cannot help but fall deeper into the abstract realm she has created.

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Light Beings

@ VOL 1 ON JAN 27, 2018

Steeped in mysticism and spirituality, Sana Arjumand's current body of work focuses on the bird as a symbol suggesting the coexistence of higher dimensions.

As children, we were told stories of the mystical Hoopoe bird, how it was the messenger to King Solomon, a close friend and confidant, who also brought the news of the Queen of Sheba. We are taught that the Hoopoe bird is symbolic of a high spiritual station and amongst the Sufi tradition it is said the feather crown on its head represents the ultimate Truth. 

There is a saying within the spiritual path "when the student is ready, the teacher will come." The same saying can be applied to artists and their muses.

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Borders & Beyond

@ VOL 1 ON JAN 27, 2018

‘Zaira Zaka Studio Residencies’ was established in 2013 to facilitate cross-cultural exchange programmes and build bridges between countries through collaborative exhibitions and share artistic practices. The studio’s programme of residencies promotes the art and culture of Pakistan internationally.

Zaira Ahmad Zaka, owner of Zaira Zaka Studio, says that a variety of facilities is provided with premier quality printmaking supplies and equipments that allow artists to develop their practice in an environment that conforms to international standard of excellence, offering them studio access around the clock from the adjoining residential quarters.

Alia Bilgrami
Curator, Artist, Khaas Art Gallery in Islamabad
Amna Hashmi
Miniature Artist, Assistant Professor in Islamabad
Zaira Ahmad Zaka
Print Maker/Founder, Zaira Zaka Studio Residencies in Islamabad
Nazia Akram Zahidi
Artist, Photographer, Documentary Filmmaker, Teacher in Islamabad
Dr. Tabassum Shaheen
Artist, Assistant Professor , Architecture and Design Department, Comsats Institute of Information Technology in Islamabad
Seyhr Qayum
Artist - Oil Painting & Mixed Media Installations in Islamabad
Ilona S. Yusuf
Poet, Printmaker, Designer - Lamps and Furniture in Islamabad
Dr. Shahida Mansoor
Artists, Print maker, Associate Professor in Islamabad
Sana Arjumand
Contemporary Visual Artist in Islamabad