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 I had heard about various artists who have withdrawn from the art world or adopted an antagonistic position towards its mechanisms.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


“i opened my eyes, and the first thing i saw was – WHITE”

Even as I took joy in expressing my controversial opinions, I would still hear sound of my inner voice advising me: “shut up”. More often than not, I would listen to that voice. Meanwhile, there was a side of me that secretly harboured thoughts that were dying to be expressed, a voice in my heart that desperately wanted to be heard, and bits of my soul that were fighting to break free. Every time I was faced with a dilemma, the two voices would break into an ugly war, and it was the same one that came out victorious every time: the voice that urged me to shut up.
I was in the same room, with the same people, and the same one sided conversation was going on. But there was something in the air that day. Something which was different and unfamiliar.
I blinked. Was that some kind of a weird, grey-coloured marshmallow I just saw? A cloud, maybe. I blinked again. Hmm. I guess I was just imagining it.
The unwritten rules of society are just as important as the ones written in the holy book. Somewhere in between those hefty sets of rules, exists art. And art is beyond all those rules, boundaries and limitations! I thought.
There was a seven-inch miniature replica of the Eiffel tower on the top of the rectangular wooden coffee table right in the middle of the living room. I stared at it.
As the generator’s battery started to run out, my room became warmer and my skin got damper. I sighed in exasperation and pushed back my glasses which were sliding down to the edge of my nose. When I regained my vision, I saw again that grey, smoke-like cloud floating in mid-air, obstructing my view of the Eiffel tower. I blinked again. This time, the smoke like structure did not budge.
“Uncle insists you become a doctor. It earns you money” I heard. His voice sounded very low and faint to me, I could hardly hear him at all. This was surprising, because whenever he opened his mouth, he makes sure he is the loudest person in the room. Now I could brush this off as a peculiar instance, but there were so many creepy things happening that I couldn’t help but freak out. Have I fallen asleep? Am I dreaming?
“And it would certainly help to get your mind off those useless novels and paintings. I mean, take it from…..” it became impossible to hear him finish his sentence. I started to feel my heart beat rise. Okay, that’s it! What’s going on?
My entire body shook as I fell to the ground, wrapped my hands around my head and screamed uncontrollably. Gradually, the pain subsided. It took me a while to catch my breath and when I got myself back on my feet, I was afraid to open my eyes. I forced myself to squint. The coast was clear. I opened my eyes, and the first thing I saw was white. It was only after I’d twisted and turned my neck at every angle possible that I realized everything around me was completely white.
All sorts of thoughts raced through my mind. Am I dead? Wow, that was easy! Did I just cross over to the other side? Whoa, maybe I’ll finally get to meet god! Am I in a state of coma? Could I be dreaming? I need to wake up before someone notices!
In the midst of all these thoughts, I saw a swirl of yellow paint floating around in random directions. It was similar to the cloud-like structure I’d seen earlier, only of a different color. I reached for it. As if on cue, it suddenly dawned on me: this place is a blank canvas, and I can paint it!
So, I tested my intuitive mind by using the tips of my fingers to carefully write something with the yellow paint onto the whiteness around me. I was writing down my name. This was the first thought that came to my mind. This was the only thing I remembered at that time that I am Ramla… My name is Ramla…. Okay I am Ramla. Who is Ramla. I so wanted to sketch my face. I was continually trying to remind how I look like. I was drawing random lines one on top of another. As I tilted my head to get an angled view of my calligraphic masterpiece, swirls of different colors began to fill up the space around me, I had never seen colors like that in my whole life! Here I was, standing in the middle of nowhere, experiencing the kind of mesmerizing beauty you only get to read about in novels. I wasted no time, and started to have fun; I made designs, created sceneries and painted faces. The feelings of my finger being dipped inside some magical liquid and then moving across the white canvas was refreshing. I could create whatever in wanted, and no one was around to object.
It felt as though something deep within me had just been unlocked. I was no longer creating symmetrical patterns or drawing organized designs; I was creating a spontaneous mess. My inner clean-freak remained silent and watched as I hurled and flung the colors at the canvas, and splattered them over myself too.
But it was not long before the two voices in my head broke into a battle again. The chaos caused me indescribable pain. I heard myself scream words, sentences and phrases that I’d kept to myself for so many years. I felt the voice that used to tell me to shut up, choke to death. And for the first time in my life, I knew what it felt like to be truly free.
I looked at the mess I’d just finished creating on the canvas. I was in charge of what happened on that canvas. I am in charge of my life. I should live it the way I want to. I might create a mess, I might fall on my face, and I might regret making certain choices. But I know that in the end, it will be the voice of my heart, not the voice of other people, which will lead me to the right place. Now I could either stay silent or I could speak up. I chose the latter. I made the first choice of my life, and I never looked back.

Leave a Comment (1)

marisa wrote on Jan 22:

beautiful!
thank you for sharing