This MA has been a journey towards understanding not only my Art, but my Self. I began with the vague idea of seeking novel forms of narrative art. Illustration, digital and otherwise, was only one aspect of it. Writing, realistic and fantasy fiction, was only one part of it. What were the narratives to be found in objects, people, places? The narratives rooted in my own history, culture, and sense of belonging?
Through exploring Jeddah, Karachi, and a variety of public art and community projects organised by myself or others, I began to discover the narratives that were lived with and through people. In a place like Jeddah where connections were hard to forge, due to the intrinsic nature of the place as well as language barriers, I discovered social media to be a useful tool. It was also a way for me to reach people in Karachi without being there in person. It also led me to discover the darker side of social media, the unspoken side, the depressive, obsessive side. Thus The Untold Edition came to life, gathering the stories of people and places in Karachi and orchestrating meaningful change.
Meanwhile, I found myself drawn to mosaics; an art form true to my heritage, and one that surrounded me in Jeddah. But I wanted to explore contemporary expressions of mosaics. I marbled and broke objects, compiling them into a puzzle as if those broken objects had stories to tell and things to say. I created fluid art with blocks and fissures of colour. I created sculptures on canvas and sprinkled them with shattered glass. None of these seemed to encapsulate the idea of a narrative or dialogue in mosaic that I envisioned.
At this point I realised that the community projects, the art, the travel had all been one giant narrative in the making. I was creating my story while I helped others tell theirs. And inspired by the view I saw through drones or from the windows of planes, I began to imagine a cartographic painting, mapping the story of the Self. For my final show I am creating a puzzle of resin squares that will weave an abstract tale, allowing people to tinker with them and move them, each arrangement altering the story but not the self. I will also be creating a projection of my projects in Karachi on hanging fabric, so that people in this new part of the world automatically become a part of it as they approach, causing the fabric to float, distorting the picture. Finally, I am creating The Untold Edition in the form of an actual edition, a journal (especially created by a bookbinding and leather artist in Jeddah) filled with the photographs, paintings and scribblings of the people who were part of it, with several blank pages at the end for people to fill when they visit the exhibit.
Where do I want to take these ideas in the future? Ideally, I want to curate a place in Jeddah, which has few places of the sort, where artists can gather for recreation and work. A fully equipped space where they can learn, and be and grow. But the path to this place required some thought, because no matter how hard I pushed, Jeddah was a closed (or very slightly ajar) door.
So I began with Taabir (a word that signifies interpretation), an online group to connect artists. I hope to start a small studio this year, also under the name of Taabir, where I can not only sell resin art, such as designer furniture, and collaborate with other textile artists to create home decor, but also hold workshops for people looking to learn or connect.
I also want to bring my Karachi projects to Jeddah, but what I lack is the authority and funds to begin them. To overcome this, I recently applied for (and got) a job at The British International School as head of the secondary section library and as coordinator between teachers to encourage creativity amongst the students. I want to use this position to curate events and create connections, reaching out to people beyond the school legitimately.
As for my own growth as an artist and writer, here are the ideas I am looking at in the near future:
- I have been working on two manuscripts with a literary agency in Jeddah, one of which I hope to publish by the end of this year
- I plan to compile a comprehensive portfolio of my work at the end of the MA and approach galleries in Jeddah and Karachi to hold an interactive solo exhibition
- I have identified a residency I would like to attend, and I will be applying there as soon as applications open. The idea is to pursue translucent art, similar to what I have been creating with resin, but this time experimenting with glass blowing.