August 1, 2016 - July 31, 2017 (extended from January 31)
Ramla Fatima graduated from N.C.A national college of arts in February 2015 with major in sculpture and minor in print making and digital arts. She has participated in a few group shows around the country. She has also been selected for two artist residencies: ”B.Q (binqalandar artist residency) and VASAL international artist residency, Karachi. She currently lives and practices in Pakistan.
As a fresh graduate with just two years of practice, Ramla’s art career may appear to be on the right track – graduated from the National College of Arts, participated in an exhibition, left for an artist residency, came back and exhibited in a number of group shows, again left for a residency – the path desired and considered as successful by many of her fellow graduates.
She is however not satisfied with all this, feeling confused and having difficulty understanding the professional art circle. She does not want her artistic career to run on the usual trajectory of group shows, solo shows, residencies, and biennales etc. She wants to take a path which no one has ever followed. When she came back from her last residency, she started looking for another which would give her a new dimension and fresh perspective to her art career, but to her disappointment, all the residencies are running very similar programmes. Then she found RFAOH, which she thinks is the exact thing she was looking for and simply wanted to be part of it.
For her on-hiatus residency at RFAOH, she does not want to propose anything. She wants to sit back and think of “tasks” that are not related to her work as a sculptor; she might write a book on the issue of “the art circle in an artist’s life”. She wants to give her career a new start. She wants to begin this residency with her mind as a blank canvas.
Even before my hiatus period during my BFA I use to think why do artists reject the art world and say goodbye to all that? I had heard about various artists who have withdrawn from the art world or adopted an antagonistic position towards its mechanisms. I was very eager to know about the problematic relationship of artists to the art world. Now when I myself have been through all this initially i have played with the system, struggled against it and then finally have walked away altogether.
Three years later, through no effort of my own, I was invited to exhibit in a number of group shows at quite popular art galleries. A few months later, a well-established gallery offered me a solo show. Miraculously, I found myself back in business. I went back into my studio. My new body of work garnered some positive reviews and a few sales. Then, work got difficult. Instead of providing an incentive recognition paralyzed me. I felt a sense of social responsibility and competition that I hadn’t when I was just making art for myself. Then, a year after that show, I was considering quitting art.
My journey toward hiatus began as soon as my career had started taking off. I decided to stop making art and walked away in dissatisfaction. I was successful enough and was receiving enough recognition of my work but surprisingly was not contented enough. I was so confused and was blindly following the usual pattern of a successful career as always told by our teachers throughout our four years of academic career i.e.
Pass with distinction
Exhibit all over the country
Be a part of national and international residencies
Wow, sounds great till you haven’t achieved all this. But what’s next. After going through all these stages the most difficult part is continuing as an artist. And I was unable to continue art. I always needed a stimulus in a form of a deadline of exhibition, in the form of being selected for a residency or I did art to just compete with my fellow graduates. Inside me it was all empty. It was so depressing when I realized that perhaps I am not an artist. I started having difficulty speaking to people about my work and was so tortured by the feeling that my work is inadequate. I was unable to be a part of this rat race any more. I had started avoiding exhibitions and sales. Perhaps the biggest reason for not being able to continue art was that I can not mess with art. For me it is something very personal, pure and full of feelings. I was unable to use it as business. I can’t sell art. I can’t make art for galleries. I can’t do commissioned works. I seem to be an insult to art in my view point. For me a piece of art is so damn personal that I wanted to keep it to myself. I don’t want to discuss with other people to judge it whether it is resolved or not. I don’t want to exhibit in the gallery to be liked or disliked by the visitors. I don’t want art critiques to pass judgments on my work. It is something what I feel. For me art is the tangible form of my feelings. And at times it could be just intangible like a sound piece. In art we are taught not to exhibit first-hand information. You have to incorporate your creativity in it. But I don’t think so. I would love to pick up random objects from the street. The abandoned objects like a worn out pair of shoes and for me it is a complete piece of art. It is beautiful enough to be exhibited in the gallery. It is resolved enough to be accepted as an art piece. It is fair enough to be the portal of my feelings or the portrayal of the feelings of the person who had probably thrown it out in the street. I can relate to it so much. I don’t know why nobody else can relate to it. And I think it’s completely fine if other people cannot relate to it. Is it a mathematical formula or a rule of gravity that has to be universal?
I don’t want to paint that pair of shoes just to make it beautiful enough to be exhibited in the gallery. I don’t want to incorporate two three more objects with it just to make it a so called resolved art piece.
So I took a break and have realized that I don’t mind doing a job which does not involve art to earn money. But I can’t sell art for my survival. Even if I want to sell my pair of shoes as an art piece who is going to buy it? Who is going to exhibit it in his gallery? So, I have started working in an event management office where I had to work on thousands of things but not art. Thank god I was so happy. I was so glad. But now I think I need a break from this as well. It’s a human nature your mind at times needs rest. This is something that I have now realized that it is something very natural and you don’t have to worry about it. And I am taking it very easy. But I was quite sensitive for the break from art. I was like I am not an artist I was led by a mistaken ambition.
My experience of RFAOH was great. I highly recommend and support this initiative because there are thousands of opportunities and platforms for practicing artists but there are hardly a few or may be it is the only platform for the artists who are on hiatus for some reason. Art is a fantasy while real life is a bit different from this fantasy world. While being on RFAOH it allows one to continue with his/her practical life and at the same time you can go back to your fantasy world without any pressure of making art or competing with the art world. Unlike the other residencies where you have to just quit your normal daily life routine and go and live in a strange environment with a number of other strangers with a hell of pressure of making art. Though it is thought that artist residencies provide a break from art to the artists but unfortunately it is not true in most cases. I have written a number of proposals to a number of well-known artist residencies in which I have mentioned that I do not want to come up with a preconceived idea or a project. I want to come and explore and then ill sort out what to make. Or maybe I just want to come to refresh my mind and might come up with not even a single art piece at the end of the day or maybe I only want to do research.
I am currently leaving for Iran to visit Religious Sites. I hope I'll come up with better plans of not making art.
On Jun 22 2017, co-director (m) commented on On Hiathus: The best part of hiatus is that its an open ended concept. Its like a non-declaration declaration. I[...]
an unplanned photo walk in the abandoned streets of an abandoned city
Hello everyone hope that you all would be doing great. After posting my first write up for the residency I have realized that it was quite depressing. All the frustration of the last six months of being on an artist block was transferred into my post unintentionally. But I am glad that RFIOH has given me new energy, hope and will. I have been reading all the posts from my fellow residents and I am really looking forward for the upcoming posts. So, finally I stepped out of my home two days back, carrying my camera and went for a photo walk with totally unplanned destination. My mind was free and relaxed and I kept walking on streets and documented random objects showing signs of negligence. I love to document found objects most specifically personal belongings and abandoned buildings.
I caught a street beggar having lunch after collecting random stuff from the streets.
A very interesting coal store house was found. I really enjoyed the process of packing coal in the sacs and putting each sac one on another in a foam of quite a well-planned heap.
While reviewing the pictures again on my way back to home I have realized that most of my documentation was based on the abandoned walls of the abandoned buildings. I have found these layers of different colors very appealing and I tend to find faces and stories in these images. I am glad that my mind have started working.
For as long as I can remember I always wanted to an artist. But for the last few months’ art is bringing nothing else but depression to me. I being on an artist blog often find myself wishing my art practice would magically make me happy again, some sort of magical healing abilities that would send all my worries away.
Some days I struggle to get out of bed more than others. It’s just hard to move, to do anything, to feel anything. I go through my daily routine much like a robot. It’s lying in bed all day, doing absolutely nothing but drowning in my own uncontrolled thoughts. They say that when a creative person is feeling down, they should channel those feelings into their art. I hardly could retain anything in my memory. At times its easy for me, some random ideas just keep coming to my mind and I keep putting them on paper, other times its hard. I come up with absolutely nothing and these feelings are trapped inside, unable to be let out. A lot of times it feels as if all the emotions have been sucked from your body, leaving sadness behind to consume you. Sad is the only thing you think, feel, say or do. Little things can upset you further. But usually, there is no reason behind the feeling you just feel sad, constantly with no explanation no matter how hard you try to find one. Your life could be going great, fantastic but yet for some reason you still cannot “produce art”, “resolve art”. For some reason you find yourself unable to fall asleep at night. You feel a certain darkness lingering in the air, behind you, above you, below you, just waiting to take you over, but you don’t know when or why and you don’t understand it. Things can be happening around you, both good and bad and you simply don’t feel a thing. You simply don’t react. It’s as if you are in an everlasting sleep, but somehow you are still breathing. But there is no life in you anymore. It’s like you are in prison and your own body is your cell. You cannot even look outside and cannot appreciate a beautiful day, because your whole world is just grey. It makes you feel like an entirely different person when you cannot even enjoy your favorite food and all the things you used to love to do, start to become more and more boring. It starts to make you feel like you are not an artist anymore. You begin to believe that you will never be an artist again and that if you do somehow produce some work it won’t last long. . . . .