• Interview: Madeeha Iqbal | Lahore, Pakistan
    Grande Odalisque Enjoying Sensation, 2012

    Madeeha Iqbal is an artist living and working in Lahore, Pakistan. She is currently a student at the Institute of Design and Visual Arts at Lahore College for Women University.


    Artist Statement: “All the sensations and emotions are directly connected with human beings throughout history. As an art student the images that are the essence of Western art history always inspire me. So I transform those historical images in my visuals and give new sensation to the essence and identity of art history through my technique and metaphors; Colors are my metaphors and these colors are something which represent me."


    Your profile says that you grew up in Lahore, Pakistan. What was your relationship to art growing up? When and why did you decide to attend an art and design university?

    I belong to KAKAZAI tribe. My father is an engineer and my mother is a housewife and a self taught painter. My mother has a background in painting, this was the prime factor that compelled me towards making art. My parents tried to train me on matters of culture but I wasn’t very observant, I argued a lot, and I often had bundles of questions. My agitated nature always pushed me to do new things. I use to draw lots of cartoons in school, but never thought I would become an artist. I was more interested in becoming a doctor, but I didn’t know what would come next.

    My art education started at Queen Mary College in Lahore, Pakistan in 2005. This was my first proper art educational institute. It emphasized academic art skills and Western art history, which included the Renaissance and the Baroque periods. This institute was a transition in my career between traditional art to contemporary art making. In 2008, I joined the Institute of Design and Visual Arts at Lahore College for Women University.

    I chose this institute because it was the best art center for girls in Lahore. Here I practiced new techniques and explored the concept of art (in critical, theoretical, and historical ways) quite rigorously, which also helped to polish my traditional skills and knowledge.


    Thinker, 2012

    Your work on EAS is primarily created with enamel paint; what draws you to this medium?

    Before this series, I already worked in traditional mediums throughout my studies. When I get a chance to do something contemporary I try many mediums, but I really enjoy the spontaneity and fluid movement of enamel paint. I've also worked with watercolors, gouache inks, gold and silver leaf pastels, charcoal and many different surfaces. 


    In your artist statement you say, “Colors are my metaphors and these colors are something which represent me.” Can you discuss the significance of the colors red and yellow in your work such as in the pieces “Red Mind,” “Spinal,” and “Thinker?”

    VIBGYOR [Violet, Indigo, Blue, Green, Yellow, Orange, Red] are the colors of the rainbow and are present in every human body from left to right, down to up and front to behind. These colors represent me because they are connected to my soul, I use these as metaphor for myself. When I take up the brush, I lose my inner conflicts. Red colors always bring up a healing effect. Golden Yellow is again used randomly while I am lost in my work.



    Many of your pieces are based on classic Western paintings such as“Grande Odalisque Enjoying Sensation” based on the 1814 Ingres painting or “Starry Night 2012” based on the famous Vincent Van Gogh painting. Why did you choose to reinterpret these works of art?

    This series transforms historically recognized and classical art images. I chose these works because these images are the essence of Western art history. When studying at the Institute of Design and Visual Arts, I learned about western artists and those who are masters of detail. Their works always inspire me, and that’s why these images catch my eye.


    Why are human “sensations and emotions” throughout history cited as an important part of your art practice?

    The profusion of human emotions and gestures and the natural dialogue we constantly engage in with our surroundings captivates me. My art explores unseen territory by giving form to the formless. I vary my technique from gestures and abstract. Non-traditional materials, such as enamel and varnish, which I incorporate in my work, add a fluidity of movement, spontaneity and physical depth to some of my pieces. This balance of juxtaposition and harmony allows me to convey multilayered, dynamic visuals through swirling gestural lines of colors.


    Starry Night, 2012


    What projects are you working on now? What are the next steps in your art practice?

    I am working on ‘Scribble it Down.' It is an international artistic collaboration. In this project each participant artist gets to work with several artists from different countries around the world on the same digital page. "Scribble It Down" is inspired from the most basic act of several people interacting around a piece of paper and allowing each other to add something new to the work in progress. During this project, the artist is free to paint or draw, can add photographs or any other element that can be made to exist in the digital format. All the while having other artists react to the additions.

    I am also working on my final thesis of Professional Calligraphy Diploma at the National College of Arts. I will continue transforming historical images and will do some new works in calligraphy as well. I want to quote Van Gogh here as I feel his words resonate with me:

    I can very well do without God both in my life and in my painting, but I cannot, suffering as I am, do without something which is greater than I am, which is my life, the power to create. –Vincent Van Gogh



  • Interview: Nada Ali | Damascus, Syria

    Nada Ali graduated from the Department of Fine Art at the University of Damascus, Syria.

    Her large scale oil paintings address the human condition through portraiture.


    Artist Statement: 'Humans beings have always been interesting to me, from the most simple attitudes to the greatest civilizations that they have built .... and destroyed. The power of art is my main faith and belief; therefore, I seek a good opportunity and a space to enable me mastering this power. I believe in human artistic creativity, which could be more effective against any other weapon, and to reach out humanity's goals. Improving my artistic skills is my ultimate tool to accomplish my mission in spreading the power of art among people, so we’d all realize our dreams of justice, freedom, love and peace.'


    Can you tell us about yourself and your background as an artist? 

    At the age of 15 I started taking art classes; since childhood drawing was my way to express myself.  At the age of 17 I started my 4 year academic studies at the Faculty of Fine Art, Damascus University, department of mural painting. Since then, I unfortunately had to leave Syria due to unstable circumstances. In 2013, I finally landed in Stockholm, Sweden, hoping to have better life and chances to continue my work and studies.


    You work primarily with oil-paint on canvas or MDF. Why do you choose to work with these materials?

    During my studies at the University, I have attended various workshops on multiple techniques, such as Plastic Art in cement, ceramics and graffiti, and experienced working with different techniques  Oil painting, however, has remained my favorite technique since with oil painting color manipulation is very easy and it has great flexibility where a wide range of varied effects can be produced. In the same manner, changing the surface can give the work different depth and texture. Many of the great painters of the past, like Ilya Repin, Ivan Kramskoy and Lawrence Alma-Tadema, have strongly influenced me and inspired me to work with the same materials.


    Most of your works are portraits. How do you choose your subjects?  Can you tell us about the content and concepts in your work?

    In the first place, I have a strong interest in human beings, and nothing can tell us about the human condition as effectively as portraiture. That’s why human beings are my favorite subjects, both in drawing and painting. Portraits are the mirrors of our inner selves. In my portraits I try to reveal what’s hidden behind the face, whether the face is taken from a picture or reality. However, painting has basic standards and conditions to be good regardless of the content. 


    Can you speak about the use of symbols and cultural references in your work?

    Whether they are patterns, colors, object, etc., symbols can be used for different reasons: purely for aesthetic purposes, or also to reveal the subject background and identity, or to send a message through the painting, by using the meaning of the symbol itself. I spontaneously use such symbols in my work. Where I come from, there is no house empty of these symbols; they carry meanings and reflect our society’s traditions and beliefs. 

     How has the conflict in Syria effected your work and your subject matter?

    The conflict in my homeland caused a conflict inside me. On the one hand I   felt responsible to take action, since I believe that our role as artists is to raise awareness about human rights. In the beginnings of 2012, I’ve worked together with three other artists to present the project Propaganda (a collaborative installation project- to be featured in EAS projects) in Damascus.  We chose this theme to show the fact that the media are manipulating minds and distorting the truth, as it is happening in the current conflict in our country. On the other hand, due to the conflict, I had to leave my country right after Propaganda.  Although I worked intensely on my first solo exhibition about human beings, war and peace, due to my relocation this exhibition is yet to be realized.    


    In your artist statement you speak of the power of human creativity. Can you elaborate on the importance of art and artists in today’s society?

    A society develops by observing itself, and what allows a society to do so are the producers of art and culture. Through the ages, artists were the ones who fearlessly pointed out social problems and represented the world in whole new ways. They strongly affected the public opinion and often succeeded in making fundamental changes that reached the whole world. Accordingly, the artists who employ their skills and abilities for social causes and for change are in my point of view the eternal ones.  Art has always proved that the essential things bring us together as human beings, regardless of the differences that blur our vision of living in peace and harmony.

    “The critic has to educate the public; the artist has to educate the critic” - Oscar Wilde

    See more of Nada's work HERE.

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  • Interview: Mahdi Barajethi | Ramallah, Palestine

    Mahdi Barajethi was born in 1991 and studies at the International Academy Of Art Palestine

    He joined the Emergent Art Space community in early 2013.


    Where are you from?  Where do you currently live/ study?  How / why did you choose to study art?

    I’m a refugee from a Palestinian city called “Al-led” which was expelled by the Israeli occupation in 1965. I live in Ramallah city with my family where I also study Contemporary Visual Art. I chose to study contemporary Art because it’s somehow new in the Palestinian artistic ground and it’s a bridge through which I can deliver my voice and opinions on both internal and external issues.

    It might sound trivial but I always think that Art chose me.  As a little kid I was pulled towards drawing and creating handmade things out of nothing. My need to express myself, which might be bigger than the political, social, and environmental reality, has attracted me towards adopting Art as an approach to express my needs and passions.

    Do you have a preferred medium? if so, what about the medium draws you to it?

    I do not believe that I restrict or bound myself to a certain medium; I also don’t mark my methods in one exact medium, but I use what I find most attractive to the inspiration of my art, and I use anything in my surroundings in order to be able to deliver my ideas and notions. However, I began using photography and performance in my recent works to support the mental state, and the subject that I choose to discuss and expose.

    Conceptually, much of your work speaks about identity- particularly as a Palestinian male, can you tell us a bit about this topic and what drew you to it as a primary subject matter?‫

    Choosing the subject of identity is inevitable, because as an Arab Palestinian male I live in an environment where I get exposed to various social and political discriminations. Therefore, as an Arab man, I face the stereotypes that are built according to certain beliefs and cultural taboos. These effect my relationship with the external world, and also the internal notions and ideas that are formed in the shape of struggles and confusions. Also, these stereotypes, that were created and prepared for me as an Arab male since birth, stand as an obstacle in my artistic route, and as much as I tried to break those taboos, they still affect my work. However, in my photography I attempt to break these rules and expose ideas in order to create a discussion space and try to get the society to think about the problems and find solutions.

    What other issues do you feel drawn to as an artist?

    There are infinite issues in the world generally and specifically, and as an artist and a human being I believe that I’m responsible for approaching worldwide and personal issues, and here falls the choice of either taking responsibility or falling towards the stereotypical silence of my society. Thus, I believe that the general and specific issues of the world are tangled and cannot be separated or dealt with on different basis. Therefore, I believe all the issues attract me to search for solutions one way or another.


    Do you see your voice as an artist playing a role in a larger global context? if so, how?

    Of course my artistic voice seems limited and hidden in one society, but I believe that, besides being part of my society, I’m an individual who belongs to the large human society that contains various voices affecting and changing it daily. I think I can deliver my voice as a critic to various issues, and to be able to put certain struggles on the spot. My aim is to be able to throw questions using the bigger context of art, and in order to be able to do that I’ll have to fully analyze and embrace my surroundings. This is where my role begins in order to be able to create change; understanding what goes around and within me to be able to make a global change.

    See more of Mahdi's work HERE

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  • Interview: Firdaus Adhitya | Indonesia

    Firdaus Adhitya is a 26 year old artist from Indonesia who recently joined the Emergent Art Space community with a series of monochromatic mixed-media portraits.  EAS artist Maddie Blake recently interviewed Firdaus about his work and process:

    MB : Is this the same man in each picture?

    FA : Yes, each picture is a self-portrait, but of different personalities.

    MB : Describe your artistic process with these portraits?

    FA : First, I took a portrait of myself, using a digital camera and DIY lamp. Then I edited it with Photoshop to create the distorted image. From this image I know the direction and distortion for the paintings.

    MB : How does the title "Bias or Refraction" relates to these pictures?

    FA : Bias is Indonesian language for refraction, just like a light bent by a prism. There is one source of light, me, which penetrates a prism, my environment like family, friends, work, etc, and spreads many lights- my personality.

    MB : How have your portraits evolved to this point? Have you always drawn faces skewed like this?

    FA : I have been really inspired by Andre Kertez, a photographer who used distorted mirrors to take pictures. And this technique really caught my attention. After much contemplation, I realized that my personality bends all the time, for example, when I deal with my family, friends, boss, girlfriend, or someone I barely know. And at some point, I really don't know who I am. Do I trust myself? What am I doing? I come up with more questions to myself, and with these questions, I begin to doubt myself. That's why my self-portraits are distorted. The environment affects my personality, just like a chameleon who adjusts with every environment.

    MB : I think the absence of color makes these images much more powerful. What do you think about your use of a monochromatic color scheme?

    FA :  I'm not into color...Usually I'm using monochrome for my artworks. Sometimes color can distract my message. I like the depth of image, it occurs to me that monochromatic is the best way to achieve the deepness. With monochromatic images, the viewer feels nostalgic, which is what I aimed for from the start. My art speaks about my personality, and I think when we talk about this, memories are the biggest part that mold someone’s personality.


  • Interview: Koshal Hamal | Nepal

    Koshal Kumar Hamal (1988), Nepal

    MA in Arts and Design, Beaconhouse University, Lahore, Pakistan

    Koshal Hamal, an EAS artist, was recently selected to be included in the World Bank's Imagining Our Future Together contest. To celebrate his success, fellow EAS artist Madeleine Blake recently interviewed Koshal about his work, his thoughts on EAS, and what kind of social role art plays in a globalized world. 


    MB: Sizing and perspective play an important role in your pieces. Can you explain your choice to present these subjects in such unique spaces? 

    KH:  My interest in the history of visual arts and literature led me to reading many books and questioning history. Looking at an object and re-contextualizing its meaning became a part of my life. I was trying to find the ‘truth’ in artists’ works. I wanted to make a dialogue between artists and their social concerns. I play with semiotics in my works which is why I do not believe in filling the whole canvas with shining colors. I focus on what is more important and significant. Conceptually and culturally, a tiny, framed image in the center of a canvas represents a particular era of a significant history.


    MB: Given that we now live in an interconnected, global world, do you think the social role of art has changed recently? Has it become more or less important?

    KH:  Yes. Since we are dealing with a global world, the social role of art has also changed. Art has become a key medium of communication which mainly deals with the questioning of global themes, rather than creating a specific pure identity of a particular culture or nation. Thus, in order to be more identified in one circle, the role of contemporary art has become more important to unite the globe.


    MB: How do you see your art in terms of "crossing borders"? 

    KH:  All of my art practice is about challenging myself. I am always trying to create something that is more significant to contemporary audiences. I do not try to follow conventional rules and regulations in my art. The meaning is all about creating an imagination of the future in my works...


    MB: Can you explain a bit how negative space plays into your paintings?

    KH:  The Imagination! The imagination of future and the study of the past!  This idea resulted in my new piece from 2011 called “This is not a Housefly” which was selected to be exhibited at The World Bank in 2012.

    MB: Congratulations on your World Bank achievement!  What does this achievement mean for you? 

    KH:  Thank you!  I think this “congratulations” goes to Samlima Hashmi, Naazish Attaulah, Maureen Korp, Rashid Rana, Quddus Mirza, Ali Raza who were my major influences in my works. The World Bank achievement has given me the wings of social responsibility and a newfound work ethic…The wings I have were awarded by the UNESCO Madanjeet Art Scholarship at Beaconhouse National University which helped me to reach this [international] stage. I am not happy, but more serious, dynamic and playful. It has helped me to connect South Asian countries to the rest of the world. The award I received has helped me to further my art practices.


    MB: What is it like being connected to artists from around the world through Emergent Art Space? How has this connection, if at all, changed your idea of the current global art scene?

    KH:  It’s really helpful that Emergent Art Space has helped young artists to connect with each other from al over the world. It gives us a sense of relational aesthetics. The connection has helped us to understand the identity of other cultures and their work.  I hope this will remain a strong platform for young artists in the future!

    Check out Koshal's portfolio and his piece in Crossing Borders

    Do you want to see an artist on EAS featured? Have you recently had an artistic achievement outside of EAS? Send an email to our Programs Coordinator at laura@emergentartspace.org to let us know!


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