My artistic journey has been very unconventional and very slow. At a very early age my parents recognized the artist in me, but it was much later in life that I actually enjoyed and cherished the joy of being an artist. I trained at the Pratt Institute, New York , USA as a Communication Designer, but have been painting since the age of 12, when I was a student of S.S Hyder, an eminent artist of Peshawar, in the North West Frontier Province of Pakistan . My greatest inspiration comes from a craft from my parents’ village in N.W.F.P, called ‘chitarkari’ or slate engraving and the ancient Gandhara art. Watching slate engravers chiseling intricate designs on slate brought this urge to pick up a hammer and chisel and do it myself. Call it art or craft, whatever I have put on display are my thoughts, feelings and anxieties engraved on slate and board. I love making my own paper, something I learnt from Tajima Shinji, a dear friend from Japan, who promoted handmade paper in Pakistan.
My recent work is a window to the world around me, where words have lost their meanings. What do words like freedom, liberty, justice and peace mean and what are the lessons my children going to learn? This is the question that plagues me most of the time. My paintings depict a world where just a few have become so big and powerful that they control the lives and destinies of millions. A world where many have to flee from their homes, and leave behind everything they loved and cherished. My paintings are about these insignificant people who don’t matter. Their faces, names and identities are insignificant.
Different symbols are depicted in my paintings. Snakes are used as motifs symbolizing the myriad of lies and deceptions we live with. These snakes slither around, decorating my paintings, just as they slither around us, inside us and we don’t find them sinister, in fact they are quite accepted. I only use the lines and form of snakes instead of revealing the whole. Symbol of ‘Roots’ for me signify limited freedom while ‘dance’ symbolizes ultimate freedom. ‘Eyes’ for me are the most important feature, while the artificial, plastic smiles might conceal but it is the eyes that reveal. Children are my greatest inspiration. What is the value of a child’s life? Why are children being robbed of their childhoods and their innocence? Where are we leading them? What are we teaching them? These are questions I frequently find asking myself.
Despite everything life goes on, the dance of life must continue.