Ayesha Zulfiqar is an artist and art educator, recently returned after her post graduate studies in UK. Before acquiring her MA, she taught at NCA, and exhibited her work in Lahore and other cities, which is highly admired due to its unique sensibility, unusual use of materials and complexity of concepts. Zulfiqar is currently working in Lahore and teaching at NCA.
ArtNow: Can you please describe your works as a graduate and post graduate student, both at NCA and at Chelsea College of Art.
Ayesha Zulfiqar: My initial works were influenced by my interest with the physical world. Graduate studies were an ongoing exploration of self, of world and relationship between two. I really liked involving with the physical side of sculpture, and role of space in three dimensionality of discipline. By the time I started my postgrad, I have already had some experience and a baggage of knowledge with me. The shock of new (experience of West) had made me challenge everything about me and everything I owned or believed.
AN: There seems to be a presence of material in your work, especially in your Degree Show at NCA, do you think material is used for conveying ideas or material becomes an idea itself?
AZ: Material is crucial when it comes to execute an idea and sometimes it is potentially powerful enough to be all on its own. It is the material between viewer and form that allows viewer to look at form the way it is and also allows to make something new out of it. The two coincide and one inform the other. Material was and is still being an important element in any of my work, but for sure an idea needs to be implanted to transform it into a work of art.
AN: How and when did the fascination with certain forms/objects started in your work, like aeroplanes, or pieces of earth? Do you use these as metaphor for something else or these are just what they are?
AZ: Those are connected to my experiences. My fascination with planes, for instance, developed with swinging…. experiencing the interchange between heavy and light. At the top, when applied forces balance out gravitational pull, the swing stops momentarily in the mid-air. It was that sensation (of being gravity free) that I associated with flying…flying in a machine like plane but much delayed or prolonged.
‘Slice’ is from the time when monumental flyovers and 4 lane roads started to make home in city of Lahore. New carpeted roads were being laid in place of old, whose debris remained along road sides for long. The process has quite informed the visual vocabulary of this work.
AN: The slice of earth in your work suggested a range of meanings, but it would be interesting and relevant to know, what did you intend, or if the work is limited to one kind of interpretation or observation as you mentioned?
AZ: Slice like a slice of cake is exotic, built up with banal objects but is real.
Use of domestic objects in its layers refers to our relationship with the world, archaeological history with social history.
AN: Your position as a maker of images and your role as an educator exit side by side. Do you think these two aspects enhance or clash within the personality and practice of a creative person?
AZ: Whether Art can or cannot be taught is another debate but surely one cannot do this job innocently. One because one cannot always teach what he knows and other that at times one should/have to teach what he doesn’t know. The merger of artist and educator keeps me charged and constantly make you revisit your limitation.
AN: How do you define creativity? In your work does the idea come first or a certain substance inspires you? Or a specific image or technique fascinates you?
AZ: I am a curious person and sensitive to my surroundings. At times I am clear about idea and its working. While sometimes something powerful/potential (visual/experience) comes to my experience, and trigger my conscious; and if it occupies my mind for long, I start investigating about that and try to find appropriate ways to get something out of that. But I intentionally try not to maintain a control on its development/process. I let accidents happen, embrace them and make decisions accordingly.
AN: In your work do you have idea of viewers when you work, or you make art for your own sake?
AZ: When I work I am not really sure whether it’s going to be displayed. And if it does I am usually aware that it has a numbered audience. Again context of gallery is at work.
AN: Please share your recent works and the process of creating these?
AZ: The most recent works include works from my Degree Show at Chelsea and residency in Berlin. They are composed of writings (in form of letters to unknown and never posted), videos and installation. West was a big shock for me. It was the first time for me to live away from my home…independently. This shock of new started a complicated comparison between (my) two realities. Me and myself were not coexisting. I was rooted miles away, yet simultaneously London started growing inside me..
This sense of displacement made me draw my home by recalling from memory to get hold of it. This act eventually turned into a stop motion videos and a life size installation of plan of my room. The exhibited work revolves around this act of commemoration. The work is also about how longing for something that keeps growing inside you, eventually becomes you
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