Ever since I can remember, I have always loved colour. Some of my earliest childhood memories are of getting into trouble with my father for doodling on the walls with crayons and markers – anything I could get my grubby hands on, even my mother’s lipstick! Being an artist seems to have always been something that came naturally to me and I was fortunate enough to have the right support and encouragement from my family and teachers. My father kept many of my scribbles and still has a tin box full of them that he likes to take out every now and then! In early adulthood my sense of colour developed further but admittedly, my draftsmanship was something that I struggled with and had to really work hard to improve. I strongly believe that skill is an important, sometimes essential component of art making, one that I admire deeply. Once equipped with these tools, one is empowered to create anything. And the journey is one of constant learning, researching and acquiring new skills while honing old ones. As an artist, the sky really is the limit but sometimes it is this open-endedness that makes it difficult to find your voice and be heard. How can you make something that nobody has ever made before? Since time memorial, we have been making art that consciously or subconsciously references other art, photography, architecture, literature or history and so on, the list is endless. But the important thing to remember is, you can have many inspirations and references as long as what you have made with it, is your own.
Since my life journey began with some amount of upheaval, and I have been fortunate enough to move around and visit different corners of the world, through my work I try to capture this feeling of belonging and of being scattered all at once. Displacement is a phenomenon that many artists before me and after me will have dealt with but is a feeling that I also consider to be my own. It is something that subconsciously seeps into my work, perhaps due to my own experiences. I love working with my hands and tend to gravitate towards labour intensive media like very detailed contemporary miniature painting along with analogue photography techniques such as cyanotypes, solar plate etchings and photo emulsion prints, sometimes combining them. The latter seem to be making a comeback, but I never stopped being enthralled by their spontaneity and have always loved using film – nothing can beat the excitement of seeing your images developing slowly before your eyes.
I completed my BFA in Karachi, the city where I grew up, from the Indus Valley School of Art & Architecture in 2007. Shortly after this, I moved to Islamabad and began my career as a curator, working at Rohtas Gallery till 2008. That same year, I was awarded a Curatorial and Research Internship at the Freer Sackler Galleries, Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC where I was fortunate enough to gain insight into the inner workings of a museum of great prestige. Following this, I moved to London and completed my MA in Fine Art from Central Saint Martins College of Art & Design in 2010, where to my surprise and joy, I was awarded the Cecil Collins Memorial Award for Drawing and my work was acquired by the CSM Museum & Study Collection. A feat I am particularly grateful for and proud of considering my earlier struggles with drawing. I moved back to Islamabad and then became part of a wonderful team at Khaas Gallery where I grew from strength to strength over the course of nine years, starting out as the assistant curator and then moving on to curator and eventually head curator (2010-2019). In the last few years, I single handedly managed the day-to-day running of the gallery and curated and co-curated over a hundred exhibitions. Highlights include co-curating international projects such as our booth at Art15, Olympia in London (2015) and START Art Fair at the Saatchi Gallery, London (2016). I also independently curated projects such as Ato Nexus – an Artist’s in Residence Program with Ilona Yusuf at the Pakistan Embassy in Tokyo, Japan (2016). In 2018, I independently curated several exhibitions starting with a groundbreaking exhibition at the National Art Gallery (PNCA), Islamabad called Sulah that included artists from Pakistan and Afghanistan, followed by Folding Shadows at Koel Gallery, Karachi. In 2019 I curated Depicture at AAN Gandhara Art Space, Karachi and taught a course on curating and arts administration at NCA, Rawalpindi and was also invited to be a thesis juror. My practice continues to encompass many different roles, that of artist, curator, writer and educator.