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 I had heard about various artists who have withdrawn from the art world or adopted an antagonistic position towards its mechanisms.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.
Ramla Fatima had initially planned to stay on hiatus at RFAOH for six months but ended up extending it to a full year, which she finished on July 31. We respect and thank her for her participation as a younger generation artist on hiatus, who may have represented many other candidates fresh out of their prestigious art schools, yet struggling to reconcile with the realities of “living as an artist”. Our initial (and perhaps “elderly” ^^) concern has been supplanted with positive wishes for her post-hiatus life no matter which path she will follow, as she now says: “And I am taking it very easy.” Way to go, Ramla!
Click “Final Report” to read on her experience at RFAOH.
In conversation with an old friend of mine I have got to know that she is also on hiatus for the last one year, as she was expecting a child and now she has become a mother of a two months old baby girl. She has shown keen interest in residency for artists on hiatus which I think would be an ideal residency for her because she is unable to make any sort of art work for quite a long time. I have shared my residency proposal with her and encouraged her to apply for this unique residency. As this is one of its own kind. I think this platform is the best to fight against the depression of not making art. While being on this residency you feel glad. Though you don’t make art but you are not even scared of being out of touch with the art world. You keep on reading the posts of other residents and in the same time you keep posting your point of views as well so it makes a very nice connection with the other artists who are going through the same situation.
Also in addition to this my work place also never let me forget that I am an artist. My boss keeps on assigning me such tasks which involve some sort of art. Probably that’s the reason I am feeling quite confused by the many different options in front of me. Perhaps it feels as if I am walking up a mountain with a large pack. I have arrived at one ridge where the view is beautiful, yet i know that if i hike up farther, the view will be even more spectacular. The problem is that i may feel completely comfortable just staying at the place I am at right now.
Things may get a bit confusing right now I have been enjoying my hiatus so much and I am scared of being a part of this art world again. I feel like i need to make sense of it all. In fact, that may be impossible. I think whatever you do, make sure you’re being yourself.
I will let my creative nature shine through. As my Daily Horoscope says;
“If you’ve been pursuing a career in the creative arts, Ramla+fatima, today you just might get the break you’ve been hoping for. All signs are great for any kind of business matters, particularly those involving art, literature, music, drama, and so on. Modern technology, such as computers, computer graphics, recording, film or video could be involved in some way. Don’t hesitate or let fear hold you back. Days like this don’t come all that often.”
I’m currently on a long hiatus initially due to issues in resolving art and now having trouble at my work place and there’s just so much drama I have to deal with. Hopefully it will end sooner or later so I can get back to my art practice. I might be slow on posting since I didn’t have that much interesting things going on in my life currently, so I really do apologize for being so late. I hope you do understand and I hope that I haven’t upset anyone.
I have never specifically talked about it, so nobody really knows the exact reasons for my hiatuses. One can make reasonable assumptions based on a number of things, including statements I have made and not putting up posts regarding my art work for quite a long period of time on my artist blog. It’s been probably my full time job for some 2 years and i mentioned in multiple sources that i have little to no social life because I work all day, sleep all night, and spends basically all of my time in searching a way out. I literally have no time to go to exhibitions and meet people because of my work schedule. If i maintained this kind of work life for a few years, it’s pretty easy to see how i could get burned out and decide to start taking some time off to just relax and do something that involves art. I took hiatuses so that i can have a relatively normal life outside of art world. And at this point in your career, you seem to be able to basically do whatever you want in regards to when you works and for how long. I really think we artists just need to take vacations sometimes. But now at times I think that I should get back to art work now.
There is also reasonable debate as to whether they’re even hiatuses. What people think is we’re really dealing with is breaks in exhibitions, which can happen for a variety of reasons. Again, it’s all speculation. Some of it is reasonably believable, some not. But we have no official statements so it’s hard to say who’s right and who’s not
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.
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
The weather today is quite good surprisingly. An Unexpected little rain in hot summer with scorching heat of sun is a miracle. I was busy with the product photo-shoot of the clothing line with which I have been working for the last few days. And thank god it was not the kids shoot this time, thank god it were these nonliving products which could be placed and replaced a thousand times without any hassle like previously it was in the case of those kids. I have been making and decorating these products for the last few days. Ironically I don’t like kids but I have really enjoyed packing up things for the new born.
So, when we were done up with the shoot as soon as i stepped out of the work place I was shocked to see that it was raining. Rain in summer over here is like a blessing. And my mood swings are mostly driven by the weather. So while I was waiting for my boss to come so that we can proceed further with the office work. I kept looking at the sky full of clouds. Thank god she got late and I have got about an hour to just sit back, think about myself and relax. And this is usually the ideal time to just dig out something from myself and write a post for the residency. So I took five to ten minutes in search for finding something logical and useful to write or I don’t know what because each time I am just posting about random things happening in my life. I don’t know if people find it interesting? I so wanted to post something “productive” this time. I kept looking at different magazines, newspapers etc. But have ended up as usual with what I was feeling at that time, so I just have started jotting that down on a piece of paper from my desk.
I think whatever I post is something which I have actually experienced after being a part of this residency. I remember that in my residency proposal I had mentioned that I will probably end up with writing a book or something. I am not that intellectual enough to be able to write a book but I think i was not fond of writing at all but this residency post commitment have actually transformed all my feelings and experiences in written form that I would definitely love to compile them all in some form. Today I was reading all my previous posts and realized that all my initial posts were full of depression, disappointment and complains but gradually it all had disappeared for the last few months. Though I don’t want to talk about that some long sad art story but just to cut the long story short, art had actually made me a psychotic patient. I have suffered from great depression while resolving art. And now I realize that the moment I left it and have joined a residency which was for the artists on hiatus it had proved really well.
I feel depression when I do art and I also fell depress when I completely leave art because after a month or two I began to think I have ruined my career, I left the art world completely. I neither want to do art nor want to completely detach myself from it. So RFAOH was the exact thing that have rescued me because these two to three posts a month make me feel alive and enthusiastic. I still remember while I was writing proposal for this residency I was fearless I have written all crap all the aggression I had against the system of art practice I literally have mentioned everything and I was not even expecting a call from you guys. But I was shocked to see that I have got selected for this residency.
Thank god! I am so contented with all what I am doing and with all what I have, that I don’t even remember that last open calls for the residencies and biennale which were my dream two years back. I do not even remember that I have lost the last chance of Gassworks.
I will not say that what I am doing right now is not art, it is not difficult and it is not time consuming – yes it is it takes me almost three hours to pack and design a new born package but what it lacks is depression, competition and torture.
Ahhh…… it’s been a long time I have not posted anything. And now when it’s the end of the month and my Facebook page is bombarded with a new post after every one day which is making me depress because I still don’t have anything new and exciting to share. After 15th of every month I just start reading posts of the other residents. I am eager to know how is their residency on hiatus is going. I wonder what their activities other than art are. And when a new month is going to end every resident is posting something on every other day. This is like a continuous reminder for me each time “look you haven’t posted anything as yet? Look you haven’t posted anything as yet!”
Though I just keep on saying each time that I don’t have much stuff to share but actually it is not the case. I do have a lot of things going on in my life I still don’t know why always I wait for the eleventh hour to write it down and share it. May be I am a lazy person but I don’t think so, because I just keep on thinking throughout the month and keep on making strategies in my mind that I will share this I will share that In my next post. But I think I just keep on waiting for something more crazy and exciting to share which always result in being late for posting. Same was the case with this month also, now when it is 23rd of March. I am actually compelled to share at least something so that I might not kicked out of the residency or I might not get my stipend of this month ;).
So, my on hiatus activity of this month was working with a clothing line as a designer. Surprisingly when I visited the workshop I got to know that the brand deals with new born clothes and toddlers or maximum 10 years old children. I was shocked. I had no such experience of designing clothes for kids of this age group. And in addition to that on the next working day I had to assist a photographer for a photo-shoot of kids for their summer collection which added to the misery. Let me add here that I do not like kids at all and really do not have any idea how to deal with them. That was a horrifying day. Dealing with such a young kid making him pose for a nice shoot was even more horrible than resolving a piece of art. The day was spent in running after those kids and finally has ended up with some really good clicks and I felt relieved. Though I was appointed as a designer but was compelled to act as a baby sitter for all day long. It was for the first time that I wished if I was not on hiatus…….
They had traveled to the desert shrine in a bus, a colorful yellow creature with a red flower headdress, an iron grill for a smile, painted eyes for head lights and every small inch of its body filigreed in floral motifs. It was already packed when they got on with the luggage thrown into the air to be precariously perched on the roof by someone at the top. The vehicle slouched slightly to one side but everyone squeezed in somehow to share the aisle with children and with chickens, a couple of bleary eyed goats and several young girls of a family squatting on the floor in ochre and fuchsia dresses.
This was the slow bus to a shrine of a sufi saint from Hyderabad that huffed along and stopped for anyone who waved at it: children without fare, old women with bundles over the head and old men as thin as the sticks they carried for balance. The men, old and young, wore red scarves about the neck and women were dressed in children.
Despite the gaiety, no one spoke out loud or got into quarrels, even the children were hushed because they were all headed for the shrine of the silent dervish.
They seemed like wizened travellers who had made this journey several times over and sat contently in silence. There was no music on the decorated but dilapidated vehicle except for the drone of the engine laboring against the sand dunes and high wind, slapped by sandstorms that wiped away the road, creeping past the villages to climb the hills. The river was far away and everyone sat dusted in gold grains that flew in through the open windows. It was still winter.
I was tired of the usual gatherings that involve dressing up and food. I was in a dire need to alter my routine and do something fun with the residents of VASAL RESIDENCY, beach camping was the best weekend get-away for me and my friends. We have made our beach camping trip a roaring success. French beach was the most beautiful destination regarding a beach trip and the one which has some sort of security to make your camping trip a wonderful experience.
I made sure that I was well away from the reaches of the water when it hits high tide. As it was my first beach trip ever so I have familiarized myself with the tides ahead of time and organized myself accordingly. It may be tempting to set up right near the water but you will be a singing a different tune when all your possessions are washed away after a particular aggressive wave. And also you don’t necessarily have to camp near an ocean. Many people set their camps near lakes and rivers too and it does not make a huge difference. The most interesting part of the trip was that I have lost my shades in the sea and have found them surprisingly right in front of me right after few hours. Sea never through back things very soon but it did and I was shocked to see that. We left the site clean on our way back home…..
“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.