Ramla Fatima, Pakistan

Residency Period: August 1, 2016 - July 31, 2017 (extended from January 31)


Bio

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.

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On-hiatus Proposal Summary

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.


Final Report

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 I had heard about various artists who have withdrawn from the art world or adopted an antagonistic position towards its mechanisms.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
 Solo show

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.


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recent comments

On Aug 4 2017, ramla fatima commented on Let your creative nature shine through: @ co-directors lol no, you does not sounds like a horoscope person infact you sounds exactly like w[...]

On Aug 4 2017, ramla fatima commented on Let your creative nature shine through: thank you so much mohamed for sharing your views. it means a lot. it always feels great to get to kn[...]

On Jul 29 2017, mohamed @ moonfarm commented on Let your creative nature shine through: selaams Ramla (the universe in a grain of sand?), As this year's hiatus is sadly coming to a close,[...]

On Jul 25 2017, co-directors (s) commented on Let your creative nature shine through: Ramla, I also feel being in the arts is being forever confused, about your decisions and desires, ab[...]

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[...]


“RE-ASSEMBLING THE BODY” 2015

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The journey began when I have started finding the meaning in my B.F.A thesis subject i.e. “reassembling the body”. December 2015- a time when ideas of definitions, boundaries, representations and interpretations have gained an almost unparalleled fluidity and my mind was not accepting the previous modes of art production.

I was going through a complex exercise of thinking about the very essence of meaning-making or wondering what in fact “meaning” may in itself is. My mind was bombarded with-what is to begin with; what is the meaning of art? It was precisely the time when I turned towards the search for which can be deemed “meaningful”. I kept hearing that art could be immediately identified as such: that works of art had a strong identity that set them apart from the ordinary that made them qualify to be called art. Also art could be whatever it wanted, as long as it had been bestowed with an intent-giving meaning.

 The will to produce art dies when you find no more logic and reason in your work.  Producing art without a purpose is pretty insignificant. The purpose of making an art work eventually leads you to a sense of attachment and where if the purpose of making an art is lost, so is the will to produce art also dies. This conflict had changed the view of my own existence; my drive towards this search for that what is meaningful was in direct relation to the damage and distress that I was facing. At that time I found myself rooted in a frustration with the idea of “meaning”. To seek and find that which is meaningful to my subject was perhaps as critical as choosing life and death.

In a book named “the transfiguration of the commonplace, Arthur Danto argues towards a definition of art, where he asserts that “[….] works of art are always about something and hence have a content or meaning; and secondly that to be a work of art something had to embody its meaning. This cannot be the entire story, but if it could not get these conditions to hold, I am unclear what a work of art without them would look like”.

I kept thinking that people will only find damage, destruction and despair in my work. When we are unable to find a validation in this that for the many that will not be able to understand, there are also the many that will. After a long debate I finally had decided that it is the time to actually get your hands dirty. I began with my work and it has started communicating with me. I have started with a 4′ x 12′ sculpture which lead to 22′ x 19′ one.

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I have realized that the work was loaded with the meaning of the past, the present and the future all at once. I have realized that meaning itself is not a static thing. It keeps moving and keeps taking a new direction. It changes with the circumstances that surround it can lead it to the evolution of a completely new concept, conferring new life upon the thing that embodies it, and in doing so, in itself becomes like an entirely different thing.

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Leave a Comment (4)

Ramla Fatima wrote on Sep 30:

yes you are right co-director (m) its a long debate "what is art and what is not" in a sense of finding meaning in it.
sorry for getting back to you so late. i was out of station in the country side with little or no access to the internet.i am posting the answer soon.

Ramla Fatima wrote on Sep 30:

thankyou marisa dipaola :)

marisa dipaola wrote on Sep 11:

Beautiful sculptural works... Their tied-up quality reminds me of the sacks of coal you photographed in your previous post!

Enjoy the process!
Peace and love

co-director (m) wrote on Sep 3:

Ramla, Where do you store this stuff? I look at your past work and these thoughts return that I always have when I see these sprawling material practices. Questions of logistics? How does the artist store this, or move this from place to place, what are the histories of all these elements, how did they end up in your possession and part of an artwork.

I think we can never control the meaning. I think we all bring our individual questions based on our individual realities, our past experiences, belief systems, context etc. to any work that it negates the possibility of it representing any singular monolithic truth. Lawrence Weiner once said that Art is one of those things that has no central definitions, it has a history, but it has no qualifications necessary. It has no need for a reference point to anything else, it is one of those things that appears in the world because somebody decides they are going to pose the question. And thats the thing about art, it doesn’t answer anybody’s questions but it gives them the means to answer their own particular question at that moment.

The work then, is nonsense. But there is value to nonsense. Weiner says "If we reject Hegel, and we reject Aristotle, and we understand simultaneous existences as equal possibilities, there then is no hierarchy, and if there is no hierarchy there is no way to have racism - none whatsoever - there is no logic to it.