Post-MPR reflections

Wow, this is long overdue.

The MPR was… overwhelming to say the least; the days preceding it, the actual day and the days that came after. Sharing my art and the thought processes behind it, succinctly I might add, was simply nerve-wrecking, and after the MPR was over I felt spent. There was a bout of demotivation that was very unsettling.

Previously we had only ever assessed our actions and thoughts out loud during one-on-one tutorials and that hadn’t been scary because we were talking to our advisor. And Jonathan has this way of making you feel like everything you’re doing is correct while also giving you a bunch of ideas and guidance. Not so with the MPR. With the MPR you were putting yourself out there, forced to watch silently and agonize as others discussed your work and you had to swallow the explanations that sprang to the tip of your tongue.

So here I was, overwhelmed and demotivated and then Janet emailed. I gotta say, that email saved my art. It made me start thinking about WHY I was feeling so lost:

  1. It was the natural low after an intense high. After two weeks of activity, mulling over and preparing the MPR, watching and thinking about the videos of the others, presenting and sharing our comments and videos in a 7 hour long session… it was natural to feel a void after it ended.
  2. I felt a bit stupid. Oddly enough, now that the MPR was over, I had a better idea of how to go about making the video *facepalm*. I hadn’t even realized that my peers didn’t know me at all, since I had never met them, and they needed more clarity on me as a person as well! I thought it was more important to chronologically detail all that we’ve been up to rather than explaining who we are and why we do what we do, which would have been a shorter and less expansive video.

So let me begin my post MPR reflections by reflecting on who I am and why I am an artist. I’m 28. I’m a mom of three. I am an entrepreneur; I sell calligraphy art, paintings and hand painted accessories, I also run social media groups and give brands opportunities to connect to their target market. I love using art for social work and connecting communities. Previously I have worked with NGOs like The Garage School, The Orange Tree Foundation and Special Olympics Pakistan to help people express themselves through art. My life has literally been a mosaic of diverse experiences. I grew up by the sea in Karachi, got married and had my first baby in Chicago winters. Now I live and work in Jeddah but travel (almost too) frequently to US and Pakistan and dearly miss those places when I leave.

Sometimes I feel I push myself to work almost too hard. And, unfortunately (i think), that intensity came through in the MPR video. But as a mom of three, I sometimes feel like I have to. Being an extremely hands-on mum, there is absolutely no moment that I am not working. I mean, my third baby was born about 4 months ago, on november 26th 2017, 4 days before the 2 girls gallery exhibition. And I don’t think I paused. I suppose it is a bad thing, but I can’t help it :/

So, yes, life’s been a weird mosaic. I started out studying pre-med and wasn’t able to attend the medical school I got into. I was forced to switch to business. Did my bachelors in marketing, and spent accounts classes doodling (I had no idea how to BEGIN studying college level accounts). Only a love for academics in general got me through with a good GPA. The only thing that remained the same throughout this time was my love for story telling.

I was always the nerdy kid tottering around with a giant pile of library books. They littered my bedside table and I could withstand any weather or brave any situation as long as I had a ridiculously large book by my side. (this was before the invention of the kindle. I’m a 90s kid y’all). I was 10 when I helped my granddad write his biography. I had written about 40 unfinished novels by the time I was seventeen. Literature was my favorite subject. In college my best moments were as director of the Literary Society plays, or planning bake sales and teaching literature to underprivileged students.

Fast forward to post-graduation, post-married life: I had two kids one year apart, we had recently moved to Jeddah and I had no idea what to do with my life. I had studied pre-med for as long as I could remember yet I could no longer pursue it, I still hated accounts and economics with all my heart, and the story telling passion in me had died when the postpartum depression had set in.

Basically, just when I felt I could no longer write stories, I picked up the brush and discovered I could paint them. That’s really the happy end of this tale. Ever since then I’ve been on a journey to discover the artist within myself and help others find the artist within themselves. I found something that I loved to do and never looked back. n

I felt that when Janet said something about a ‘woven fabric’, that really resonated with me.

Here are answers to some of the questions that were asked during the MPR:

Simultaneous narratives attract me because they focus on abstract elements to capture a narrative. The whole point is that the audience creates their own understanding, interprets it in their way. All I seek to do is create something meaningful. The meaning itself is derived by the audience. I see it as an interdependency of narrative and aesthetics that create emotions for the viewer. 

The whole point of this long journey of searching that I demonstrated in the MPR was to find the tools that would create my own unique practice. The reason you saw the use of such varied tools was because I was experimenting and exploring at a fast pace, following where inspiration led. But yes, I have honed it down now to certain key tools:

  • found glass tesserae
  • Air dry clay
  • Acrylics and pouring mediums

  • canvas on wood

  • photoshop and blender

Someone mentioned that I needed more artists than just Gaudi to be inspired by. This was something I found challenging to cover in the MPR but I did mention that I have been exploring many artists and writing down my thoughts in the artist’s case study section.

When I consider as these questions above ask me to consider, here is what I end up with: Color is simply something that I naturally lean towards. I thought once upon a time that I would like to experiment with black and white, but I have found that I never end up doing that. The use of mosaic DOES stem from my culture and heritage, but I have been trying to explore alternative ways to use the mosaic. Most often it is seen as tiles placed into a design with grout in between, I want to amalgamate it seamlessly with painting. Why marbling? Because, like I mentioned, I realized there are many different types of mosaic. A quilt for example. Pouring acrylics and meshing different colors, making cells, is a type of mosaic art I feel.

Some of the most encouraging comments came from Dwa, Anfal, Charlotte, Vivian and Leyla. I was glad to note appreciation for the use of color, mosaics and sharing my work through community projects and social media. So this is something I intend to continue.

Some of the most useful suggestions were the following:

  • Nadine said using algorithms to create the mosaic. I have to try this!

  • Vivian said that to her mosaic meant digital pixels. Such an interesting thought! and a novel way of looking at a mosaic!

  • Kat suggested working with resin. This would be new for me and definitely something worth looking into once I have greater practice with the current tools.

  • Anfal’s comments were priceless! I love that she mentioned projections of mosaic art and building up a mosaic because they gave me an idea of another project 😀 (hehe. can’t help myself!)

  • Anfal also asked me to check out the work of Kirsten Hassenfeld which I have absolutely fallen in love with. I will study her art and inspirations further and write a separate post about it. Thank you Anfal! <3

  • She also suggested looking at the work of Sunny Park, which I will do so once done with this blog post.

  • Arlette sent a link to Niki de Saint Phalle. Not only does the work look interesting but her story sounds vaguely similar to mine. How did you know Arlette! 😮 haha 😉

  • Gabriella spoke about stop-motion. I have explored that idea previously but somehow stop-motion simply doesn’t inspire me… I feel like I want to delve into animation AFTER the art is already created as opposed to recording it as I go. Kind of like a suspension of disbelief. We know it is a stationary sculpture/painting but can I get the audience to engage in its movement?

  • Gabriella also said that she imagined that sculpture stuck up on the wall with paint thrown at it. So let me confess something, at this point I had been working on attaching found glass tesserae to the clay and it realllyyy wasn’t working out, because the sculpture had tiny grooves and it was impossible to cut the glass shards so small so evenly! Gabriella’s comment reminded me that Jonathan had also said, in our last tutorial session, that I could think in layers. Clay upon canvas, paint upon clay and then build it up so on and so forth. This is exactly what ended up happening in the latest piece I created which I will share in a later blogpost. Thank you both!

  • Someone mentioned a community project, six billion others which was about creating a human mosaic. OMG so brilliant. I can’t wait to read more about this. Thank you whoever it was!

Jonathan wrapped it up by saying that it was okay for me to be so exploratory at this stage. I’m so happy he said that because I felt a bit silly at this point, doing so many things at once. But, reflecting upon it later, I realized that all this work was leading to a single direction:

  1. Developing my own unique style that fascinates me AND connects with the audience

  2. Creating a whole series of community projects that inspire others!

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