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 I had heard about various artists who have withdrawn from the art world or adopted an antagonistic position towards its mechanisms.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


“Career suicide”

Career suicide is about the realities of working in the contemporary art world for most professional artists, the thousands of unfashionable, little known and underpaid ones who have to do all manners of unfashionable, little known and underpaid things to survive.
I am an artist and a writer, or a writer and an artist.
I know many other artists for whom this is true as well: It is incredibly impressed upon young artists: we need to find our particular thing. Establish our unique selling point from the very beginning and hang onto that. It was very difficult for me to find “my particular thing” in Contemporary art which so often whooshes right over people’s heads at supersonic speeds, because in many cases you need an extensive art education to even look at this type of work in any way that could conceivably be productive or rewarding. Or you can waste others time with bafflingly stupid or inept work and with a general poor show all around. I don’t know what this thing will be “I was going from up town to down town”. And I think it is a perfect way to express it.
I hate most contemporary art too, even though I make it. Yes I am bitter, but out of that bitterness has come a beautifully sweet idea. I am determined to find new ways of sharing art that matters to normal people, time to re-route around the blockages. Instead of being scarily revolutionary your not-worryingly-unique-thing will be a clever twist on a style or a genre, or better still a clever twist on a very specific and recognizable artist who is already established in the market, with a high profile and a good record of sale-ability.
Sadly, no matter how drunk the artist gets or how much heroin they shoot up even then the choices we made about our practice and about what work to make are driven by what the market wants. While it is not always easy to comment and talk about someone so respected and influential “the well established artists”, “the big names in the art world”, but I do agree very strongly with the idea that most of the times successful artists just happen to make work that rich people or major art institutions want. The art world thus is mostly business and not much art.

Leave a Comment (5)

co-director (s) wrote on Nov 7:

Here's my contribution, even if it's somewhat cultual specific: http://smfoundation.milkshake.jp/Trans-Miyajima.html#.WCChKCMrJcw

Ramla Fatima wrote on Nov 3:

hi wayne lim i would love to read your paper and also it would be pleasure if we could skype some day

Ramla Fatima wrote on Nov 3:

yes i agree the co_director i also did not paid attention to the art market for the past two years and have not ever thought to produce "sellable art". as long as my father was there to finance me and support me in all possible ways he could and he never found my aspirations pointless. but not every artist is that fortunate to have someone who use to finance him/her. when it comes to you , when you yuorself are responsible for your bread and butter you actually have to look into your art practic seriously. either find ways through art for survival or quit art and earn from any other sourse.

Wayne Lim wrote on Oct 31:

Couldn't agree more with Matt (or Shinobu)!

I think a lot of us went through (or are still going through) that stage. Yesterday, I had to comment on a lecture at the Equator Symposium and I was reminded of this "art circuit" in  — that I am in no way part of — that 'allows' art workers to be part of once their popularity grows. And some of these artists at some point would be (say) 'kicked out' or 'disappear' from this circuit. A few of my tutors, for example used to be part of this but they're teaching art now. Does that in any way means that they're not contributing towards the artistic circle? I really don't think so. Because if everyone starts thinking that they want to sell art, what does that really mean for the artists and the art world? That's really really ugly.

I think there are many ways to think about art and cultural production. Reforming education and infrastructure are two things urgently need to be done. We all went to school thinking and romanticizing that we will have to fill up application, work with institutions and museums, but honestly, these are the places I will avoid at all cost.

Find your strategy! I think the paper I deliver here in Yogyakarta would be of interest to you? We could speak more and share, so drop me an email if you wish to skype?

co-director (m) wrote on Oct 30:

-- " I am determined to find new ways of sharing art that matters to normal people, time to re-route around the blockages."

In aikido, there is this principle of blending with an incoming encounter/vector of energy then assuming or taking over the centre from where one can redirect that vector to some more agreeable outcome. Often that happens by being acutely aware of the empty space or void - ("The still point of the turning world", to quote TS Eliot) - and exploiting that as the natural space or direction in which to go. Like a river flowing around a rock along the path of least resistance - its fluid and dynamic.

So you mention a pressure as a young artist to find a particular "thing" both unique yet marketable as a kind of pre-requisite for success, but why not instead, look for the particular spaces, or voids, (non-things) in which you can insert yourself as place to practice and where its possible to be transformative yet accessible.

I don't know Ramla, I don't pay attention to the art market because I don't seem to sell art. LOL :)