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 I had heard about various artists who have withdrawn from the art world or adopted an antagonistic position towards its mechanisms.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


20 feet to 20 inches

“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.” Co-director wrote on September, 3 made me think about it. I have been ignoring this for so long because the answer to this question digs something from my past, which for some reason I don’t feel free to talk about. Yes it is a sad fact; it is one of the main reasons of me as an artist being on hiatus. Quitting or taking a break from art was not that easy. But I took this decision for many reasons.
I end up with my thesis project with a lot of appreciation. But sadly it was just the appreciation. It took me more than two months to build this huge piece, a lot of budget, a lot of manpower, uncountable sleepless nights, a number of restless days but this all ended up with just appreciation.

Nobody buys large scale sculptures, no gallery around the country unfortunately have that much space to exhibit huge work. A few of them who can, they probably don’t want to get into this mess of keeping large scale sculptures, the hassle of their transportation and installation.
After two weeks of thesis display I have to move back my work to my home. Luckily I have got a storage space which 90% of the artists don’t have actually. So I wasn’t that unfortunate. Anyways I have to hire a crane to move the iron armature of my work right from the college to my home. It took me and my friends five days to dismantle all the work, pack it up and load it in a truck separately in addition to the crane.
After that whenever I have written proposal for large scale installation to a gallery, nobody gave me a positive response. Eleven months back a gallery owner called me because she wanted me to put up my thesis project in an upcoming show. So, the whole process started again. Though have took one month this time, hired crane, labor, truck, have loaded my work, reached gallery, installed, got appreciated, dismantled the piece again, got home with the piece again.
Then I sit back and realized I seriously have no energy and money for all this now. I was heartbroken I have decided to quit. I started a 9am-5pm job at a software house on less than 150$. That was my first salary. I was happy because I have not earned, not even a single dollar from my art ever. But the happiness did not last long. I kept regretting of quitting art. Then I found a way out. I found an escape in digital art. Thought I was trailed as a sculptor but I have realized that my work could be transformed into photo collage and digital manipulation of my work. I kept documenting random objects on streets and roads and started producing digital work. I was glad that I have tried a new medium. But inside me my own whole world was just grey. I was doing it forcefully. That was not my way of working. I was a sculptor an installation artist. I was born to produce huge and large scale sculptures. So the journey of squeezing 20 feet sculptures to 20 inches digital prints came to an end. I end up with nothing but with a conclusion not to produce art anymore….. unless I find a gallery who could support me in shipping my work at least, unless I find a museum ready to take my work in their permanent collection, unless a find an art collector ready to keep large scale sculptures, unless I find something more than appreciation.

Leave a Comment (3)

Ramla Fatima wrote on Nov 17:

Yup i totally agree marisa. i don't like the gallery culture and i am finding my way out.....

marisa wrote on Nov 11:

I, too, fell into the trap of making huge sculptures that couldn't fit inside anywhere. So after a break, I started making work particularly for the outdoors, And then, by a twist of fate, I got into public art for a short, yet rewarding, time. Instead of trying to gain the unrewarding appreciation of the gallery-going elite, my work shone outdoors, enlivening the daily lives of ordinary people.
Your work has its place, and you will find it, and yours,
but don't get boxed in by what gallerists want to sell.

co-director (m) wrote on Sep 30:

Thank you for this response, Ramla. (I had only asked 1/2 rhetorically, though I'm always curious about these things) And It is a curious thing, being an artist in this world were professionalism = being paid from one's labour, yet 99% of artists maintain other jobs to fund their work. as teachers, or illustrators, or waiters or whatever. So you are right and the appreciation - the discussion generated around it - becomes the key that sustains it. I think, this is one of the things that keeps me interested in art - as a phenomenon, that it defies this normal logic of supply and demand capitalism and where this scrunched piece of paper (http://www.martincreed.com/images/uploads/work88b.jpg) could be either an artwork or garbage depending on circumstances outside of itself. Or perhaps it is both art AND garbage, or perhaps its is neither. (In this example at this link its an artwork by Martin Creed)

I'm reminded of 2 quotes: The first in the Philosophy of Andy Warhol from A to B and back again, Andy says:

" I really believe in empty spaces, although, as an artist, I make a lot of junk. Empty space is never-wasted space. Wasted space is any space that has art in it. An artist is somebody who produces things that people don't need to have but that he—for some reason—thinks it would be a good idea to give them." Remember when Andy died his home was chock full of junk he had collected, cookie jars etc. But he was brilliant and he made and sold a lot of work which many people also feel is junk. (Anyway, you can read the whole book on line I believe - http://thephilosophyofandywarhol.blogspot.ca/2009/09/10-atmosphere.html)

The second quote is another work by Martin Creed, - "The Whole World + the Work = the Whole World" (http://bit.ly/2cGqnFn)

Perhaps you will make art again after your hiatus Ramla, I think art careers happen over decades and our relationships to our practice, the questions we are asking with it, changes over time.

Thanks for this.