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 I had heard about various artists who have withdrawn from the art world or adopted an antagonistic position towards its mechanisms.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


In Conversation with a Vegetarian’s Sister

On my way back home from the work place I got to know during a conversation with my colleague that her younger brother is a vegetarian.
I know many people who are vegetarian; so I had no interest in his story because I was expecting the very usual reason behind that. I thought that now she would say that he must have seen a slaughtering cow or hen or he is scared of blood etc. But the reason she told me, in fact the way he had communicated the story behind he being a vegetarian was so “artistic”
She added that once when he was in grade one or two I saw a drawing in his sketchbook in which he had drawn planet earth on one corner of the page and another alien planet on the other corner of the page and all the animals like cows, buffalos , goats and chicken we jumping from earth to that planet. When she enquired what have you drawn he said that I feel so sorry for all these animals when ill grow older I will take all the animals to that planet far away from the planet earth.
While she was telling me all this I was completely lost and ever since I am imaging that drawing I so wish if I could see that. I so wanted to draw this scene by myself so that I could add in this post but later I thought that my drawing might put a full stop to everyone’s else imagination. I want who so ever reads this post should recreate this image their way.
It’s been a long time I heard anything so emotional and artistic like this. I use to work in an event management company where everyone talks about business opportunities and they are only concerned in making more and more money and nothing else. They have nothing to do neither with arts nor with feelings because in professional life you have to be immune to certain things and on the top of which are – emotions.

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I MET THE BUDDIST GOD

I have been to an old village last week named SHAH ALLAH DITTA. The village is believed to be 700 years old. It was an official trip. I have been there for a meeting with the deputy mayor of the city to propose a “one day retreat” proposal at his place i.e. a country high land club. He took us for a site visit. The club was right next to historic Buddhist caves named “shah allah ditta caves” the remains of 2,400 years old-Buddhist-era. the caves had a spring water stream in the middle. the stream water is collected in a man made pond and is being used by the local community for drinking and is believed that this water has power to heal the illness.

We were told that on the outer wall of the caves there are paintings on the red toned mud plaster. The paintings were more like drawings with the black and terracotta red paint. Unfortunately, the people who visited the place have totally vandalised paintings on the wall. Now only an eye of a human face is left to give us clue that there were some paintings on the wall. Now we only find the remains of red pottery and flaked artefacts of limestone all around the caves.

I literally have no words to explain what kind of a peaceful place it was. It was something out of this world. While everyone was busy in taking selfies I went inside the cave and sat quietly for a few while. I am putting up some Google images of this place as I haven’t taken not a single picture because camera could not capture the feelings that I was experiencing at that time. I so wished if I had a pencil or a paper to jot down what exactly was coming to my mind. I wish if I could have that much time to sit there for hours in front of the interlaces roots of old Banyan trees which were. I had decided that I will definitely write something down about it when I’ll get back home.
Now when I am sitting in my room with my laptop I have closed my eyes and I am imagining that I am sitting in that cave and wondering how Buddha could have come here, what would he be eating. I will not write something down about its history and importance because you will get enough stuff on Wikipedia about SHAH ALLAH DITTA CAVES. Rather i would like to share my own experience. The point is why so much peace here is. I am not a Buddhist I have no spiritual connection with this place then why I am feeling so much peace here. I felt the same thing when I visited a GURDWARA (Hindu worship place) two years back.

I think human- god, religion, peace is all a (stimulus-response) reaction. We human being have found our way outs in our own things i.e. we have created our own stimulus like Muslims find peace in a black empty box called Holy Kaaba, Hindus find their god in their own man-made sculptures, some find god in fir, sun etc. So it’s not the discrimination of religions it’s something completely personal. Anyways I have really enjoyed the Buddhist stimulus that was the worship place of Buddha (shah allah ditta caves).
We are organizing an event there by next week. I’ll definitely share the details with you and yes of-Course this time my own camera clicks

Leave a Comment (2)

Ramla Fatima wrote on May 7:

I think we should accept things the way they are either religious or personal. media does not always projects the actual thing rather it is the view point of a certain group. what ever i post is the actual view point of a common citizen that is how a layman think, feel and respond. which i think is quite positive.....

co-director (m) wrote on May 7:

The best part of your posts Ramla is we get a glimpse into a different Pakistan than the one we understand through movies and media. I think you are right about religion being a reaction in people to external stimuli. And certainly with buddhism there is an additional layer that the natural world and ourselves are part of the same entity/spirit/system. I'm not really religious but I like this idea the best of all cosmologies; as it also gives us as individuals agency (and thus responsibility) to effect that system -- (ideas like 'karma', or even simply the potential to spread love or happiness through our gestures) I hope you get the chance to visit Japan some time and see the buddhist inspired gardens in Kyoto.