The notion of displacement is featured heavily in my practice. Initially I used the cardboard box and maps to visually translate the feeling. After extensive research, I 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. My work speaks of this dichotomy. Having grown up in both Canada and Pakistan, my artwork often expresses this duality – the simultaneous feeling of belonging and of being scattered, that translocation often brings. I enjoy 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 me for aesthetic reasons, and I am sure that many more will use it in the years or decades to come. But for me, the tulip is personal. In a way, sometimes my tulips are like self-portraits that evoke my 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 my practice.