1 August 2016 - 31 July 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 I had heard about various artists who have withdrawn from the art world or adopted an antagonistic position towards its mechanisms.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.
“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.
“i’m the biggest example of survival,” says Shehroz of his Hiatus
“Looking at other actors become heartthrobs right in front of me and seeing them bag roles right under my nose has never disturbed me whatsoever. I am the biggest example of survival because I have great faith and to me, those years were the waiting period for something mind-blowing and here I am, finally doing a film that’s worthwhile.” said shehroz.
I caught up with this actor who was on- hiatus to learn a bit more about his film, which may put him back in the spot light.
I met an old friend of mine almost after a year and was shocked to know that he was on hiatus too. Before I proceed further with his story, I would like to just give a little introduction of this guy. We both graduated from National College of Arts in the same year but with different disciplines, me with fine arts and he did bachelors in film making. He has been working in media as an actor for quite a long time and was quite famous. He is a good looking boy with a bonus of having strong family background of film making. Being the only son of a renowned film actor, he inherited acting skills.
After college we got busy in our own lives. He was on the peak of his career when we have met a year ago but today when I saw him and the conversation began I was completely shocked to hear him saying that he was not working for more than two years.….. But he thinks that the upcoming year looks like an optimistic one.
“Five years ago I thought I should do a film and I have been in talks with a director ever since but nothing shaped up. At times I’d get really upset since my dream has always been to work with an actual filmmaker, and he’s one of the best. I got a call from the director a month ago and he told me that he had finally written a character that he felt could fit my personality. I said yes without even reading the script. The film follows the journey of a small-time musician who falls madly in love with an influential politician’s daughter and the film offers a rollercoaster of emotions, slight thrill being shot in the city, the film will be wrapped up by the end of February. I had a very small window to prepare for the character of a musician. We went on floors just a few days after the official announcement. However, through YouTube tutorials I have learnt how to play the guitar and the saxophone so I am sure when people will watch the film, they will know I am not faking.”
Shehroz’s real-life father and seasoned actor will be seen portraying his reel-life father. Shehroz is happy to be back; after all it has been al-most a decade since he first appeared in his uncle directorial film.
“I have grown up on sets, I have seen actors come and go, I have seen their graphs go up and down, I have seen my uncle (a re known actor/director) rise again and so I am way past that,”
You can never be “on hiatus” as an artist. Even if you are wrapped in different packaging (like me as an event manager) but an artist remains an artist somehow and it happens to everyone.
What made my life busier is the added incentive to my monthly income a drawing teacher. This happened when I was at a stationary shop for buying some stuff for the office and a mother of a 9 year old child came to me and asked “are you an artist? Are you teaching art somewhere?” and I was shocked to hear that how did she know that I am ex artist. Her question left me speechless. After two days she visited my place and had a cup of tea with me. The conversation began….. She told me that she was looking for an art teacher for quite a long time for her child. I told her that I have no teaching experience of art. But the moment I saw that kid with bright eyes full of passion I could not refuse her I don’t know for what reason. Anyways, he started coming to my place every day for one hour drawing class.
It’s been more than a month now. Initially in first two classes I was totally blank. But with the passage of time I have started enjoying going back to times and revising the basic art lessons. This whole one month experience took me back to my foundation year of BFA.
Today was his last day of drawing course. During these classes I myself have developed a little interest in drawing again. But today when he left I find myself again on hiatus. I think at times my mind just accelerate with artistic thoughts and began to think creatively but for some reason my hands are unable to work in coordination with my mind while drawing or sketching an idea. I think I still need some more time to think about it either I want to quit or continue.
I was quite happy with the non-artistic office work and not being surrounded by the people of art circle anymore. As I have mentioned in my previous post that I have started working as an event co-coordinator with an event management company and me as an event manager it has dominated the first half of me as an artist. I was very happy because over here I was supposed to do something which is not related to producing art. For example, I am currently designing a course outline for a workshop to be conducted in February 2017 on event management.
I think this art class has disturbed my routine again and left me again in the deep confusion and threatened me again that “it perhaps is not dead as yet” which will make burden on my mind harder to bear in 2017.
Talking about marriage is the biggest social taboo in the sub-continent. Arrange marriage is an institution. People anticipating an arranged marriage isn’t actively involved in the partner selection process. The actual man or women about to be married is not the only factor to be considered. Indeed people use the other factors to offset their shortcomings in the more obvious departments, such as looks or employment. The situation of getting an arranged marriage proposal for a girl with above average looks is “too good to be true” unless your family credentials are also pretty exceptional.
This post is about my recent “on hiatus” activity i.e. arranging a matrimonial match-making event in the town named “HIM & HER”
This initiative was taken to encounter the essential unreality of matrimonial relationships being made as a result of arranged or forced marriages-a biggest social taboo, what starts out as hope, soon becomes finessed into a hegemony of power, leaving only a sense of chaos and the possibility of a new reality. The relationship which is supposed to be based on love and extreme willingness, if is based on force how would it be like.
The purpose of this event was to provide a platform for the essential advisory services for marriage in a healthy and comfortable environment and to raise voice against the taboo of late or second marriage, or looking for your spouse by yourself.
Being the pioniers of bringing this concept in Pakistan, we were highly appreciated not only by the words of mouth but have also got a tremendous response country wide via our social media page. We haven’t got any negative criticism, not even a single comment which was not in the favor of this initiative.
Unlike the usual events e.g. concluding a movie premier, a concert or a cultural festival, HIM & HER was a big challenge because meeting the recreational purpose is much easier than meeting up the emotional contentment of an individual. This platform has proved to be a blessing for all those who lack the usual channel of getting a marriage proposal. We have been successful enough in concluding a successful event as far as the arrangements and meeting up the deadline is concerned but I think that we have not been that successful in meeting up the true purpose of this event. On one side where people have walked in with high hopes and bright eyes to the venue on the other hand they left with a bit disappointment. This could have been referred as a great play with human emotions. For some reason we haven’t done justice to each one of them.
Its been long time that i was quite confused about what should i write in the next post. “Negatives at work place” was the reason of not being in touch with RFAOH in the whole month of December. But the email that i received yesterday from you have actually compelled me to write this post expressing my current situation. I have started working with an event management company for the last 5 weeks. It was my first experience of job and i am jotting down few thoughts expressing my experience.
A living organisation would never deny that it is filled with both emotions of positivism and negativism. Every single organisation, every work station, every division, is always surrounded by colleagues, who are unfortunately ‘possessed’ of negative tendencies.
They can only see the dark, the very dark clouds in almost every facet of life. They are even blinded to the promise of the silver linings behind these dark clouds. They ignore them and hence are obvious to the potential of the ‘silver linings’ attached to difficulties in work and life. These are seen by the negatively oriented as a scientific deception to looming depression of clouds. They do not realize that even the longest day has an end.
Negatively inclined colleagues, you would find rush to quickly point loopholes even in the best of initiatives. They would never look at half a glass as an opportunity; they would only crib and complain why it isn’t full! These types of colleagues are like the hyenas they lark in office corridors waiting for the unsuspecting positive colleague and then attack them venomously with negative news; depressing views, unsubstantiated hearsay that could be of no relevance to either of them, but it is done with the sole motive to rob the individual of the positive energy. They think that their job description is to cause incorrect-able pollution of minds.
I have always identified these individuals with the glorious nick-name of ‘corporate mother-in-laws’. They love the language of sarcasm and taunt. They enjoy teasing. They relish in derailing people from their goals.
None could break through the great wall of negativism that they had so lovingly built around themselves. It is another matter that later in life the same became his career’s prison walls. He entrapped himself in negativity; while the positive world around him moved forward. The man who never moved forward. The man who never alters his opinion is like standing water, and breeds reptile of the mind, as said by (William Blake).
In dealing with those colleagues who are affiliated with this trait, it is best firstly to accept, that we are dealing with some bacteria for which no corporate vaccine or antibiotic has been found. In fact, it is a stage four cancer at its very beginning itself for it is bound to eat away from within the good cells of the organisation. Treatment therefore has to begin before its lethal onset. Unchecked it can become endemic and epidemic.
If recognition of the problem individuals is fast, speedy, and quick, then it is safe to rely upon the age old held opinion that negativism is impermanent because it is on conflict with man’s innate nature of being positive. I think that a door shut is an opportunity that it can be opened and unlocked. Negativism in life is a waste of time. Positivity prompts action.
Negativity always kills passion and effort. As Churchill said, I am an optimist and a positive person because it does not seem to be much use in being anything else.
At the workplace in dealing with these types of individuals, develop a non-sense attitude to the intruder who would want to spend time with you with no good work at hand but only to bite your calmness and to pollute your mind with negativity. Be wary of such colleagues who would otherwise appear out wardly as good intention and positive but in their insides reside oceans of venom waiting to be unleashed upon the shored of positive minds.
I personally believe and subscribe that all reaction to negative news is a broad smile or if necessary a comment on the lines of ‘that could be one way of looking at things’.
Attempt to end conversations with negative colleagues, by asking them to view things differently. Work upon them slowly for conversation to positivity of thought. I am certain only a few dosages would alter their mental makeup barring the die hard and the unfortunate. Why don’t we learn from the bee that sucks the sweetest honey from the bitterest of flowers. Deal gently to get them on rails, otherwise a strong retaliatory reaction would usher more negatives. At times it is the consultation with the ignorant that gives access to unknown wisdom.
There is an Irish saying: count your joys instead of your woes; count your friends instead of your foes. Try to quote this to those in need of a reminder.