Echoing many other graduating students’ sentiments at the National College of Arts, Hyderabad resident Tahir Ali said that his teacher had priced the work he was showing at the NCA’s Undergraduate Thesis which opens on Wednesday. Ali’s work was priced between Rs60,000 and Rs35,000 a piece. He had sold one piece to a teacher (who was also a juror).
Ali considers NCA the premier art school of the country which is why he chose to attend it. Ali said his work was about the state of mind and different moods. “I’ve tried to depict the unconscious on my canvases.”
Moharram Ali, works in miniature and comes from Shikarpur. He took to miniature as he placed in that department due to his result in the foundation year. He said he came to the NCA as it was a ‘liberal college’ where there was a tremendous amount of freedom. “There is freedom of expression here.” After graduating, Ali said, he intends to ‘stay in the art market’ and keep in touch with what is happening in the contemporary art world. His miniatures were priced between Rs25,000 and Rs40,000. The one piece he had sold, he proudly said, had been bought by a singer in a pop band.
Lahore resident Sarah Hashmi said the mood of her paintings is what she thought would hit the viewer first. “The scratching in my work shows that I am dealing with the past. I have tried to show the rigidity in relationships and the silence and remoteness.” Hashmi said her work was priced below average, from Rs30,000 to Rs45,000. All her work has already been bought by three people (an art gallery owner, a teacher and a collector).
Hashmi said she now wants to work with sculpture (“I am trying to decide between wax and wood, they are both so different”) and hopes to continue working.
Karachiite Asra Abdul Samar said, “My work is mostly about an underlying feeling of discomfort.” She said there was stillness in her work. “I am trying to convey a feeling of anxiety.” Samar transferred from Karachi (Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture) to the NCA after her first year. “My work is somewhere between Rs20,000 to Rs55,000.” She had sold only one painting so far, “but its only been one day. I have expectations,” Samar added.
The graduating student said she wanted to start teaching and would be looking for a position soon. “I know with teaching I will be done by 2 pm. I will have ample time to continue working on my art.” Samar said her work was not influenced by what the art market demanded. “I don’t think I am capable of producing work I don’t want to.” She said she did commissions on the side but did not invest any emotion in them, adding “It’s really for earning pocket money. I am happy to do them.” The art market, she said, was not far from what artists were producing these days. “It’s unconscious and natural.”
Natasha Malik said working with miniature suited her temperament. “I’ve grown up looking at miniatures. I also wanted to learn a traditional art.” Malik, who comes from Lahore, said some of her pieces explore the relationship between the female nude and animals. The animal could also signify a person, she said. Other pieces, she said, were about the relationship between a mother and her adult child, “about the tensions and the dependency in those relationships.”
“Some of my pieces are about the voyeuristic tendency people have to look at private acts,” she said, pointing to a piece depicting a woman engaged in an intimate sexual act. “The frame is inspired by a keyhole.” Another of her pieces showed a woman being waxed by another. “It’s another intimate act, hair removal. It’s strange how this anonymous woman comes to your house and you take your clothes off in front of her.”
Malik said her pricing was Rs25,000 to Rs30,000. She said after graduating she hoped to continue working with miniatures. She also hopes to eventually go abroad for graduate work. “I hear encouraging things about the Fulbright.”
Lahori Ali Mansur said his work was initially about light and his curiosity about being nude in public and private places. “I realised that I did not want to be among the men I painted but it was pleasurable to view them.” Speaking about a piece which showed a man massaging another, he said, “the recipient knows he is being watched and stares back at the viewer.” The idea, he said, was that the viewer needs to be aware that he is also being viewed, ‘the eyeballs chase you’.
Mansur has priced his work between Rs 70,000 to Rs55,000. He said some of his work had been bought by an art critic and by a gallery owner.
Minaa Haroon said her work was about geometric shapes. “The order of the earth is in geometric shapes. I started work that was not social or political.” The Lahore resident said she wanted to create stylised landscapes. “I wanted the viewer to feel calm.” Haroon said she had priced her work between Rs20,000 to Rs30,000 and that two of her pieces had already been taken. “They were leaving for Dubai so I let them take the pieces.”
“I had decided to pursue painting when I came to NCA. But when I saw the techniques being used in miniature, I knew I wanted to learn them,” said Lahori Hadia Zahra. She said she also felt her temperament suited working with miniatures. “It’s very calm, demands a lot of patience and it really involves all of your senses.”
“Greed and lust are demons,” she said speaking about the concept behind her work. “These forces threaten to take over the spiritual mind.” She said all her work was linked. “I did not price my work, my teacher priced it.” Her prices, she added, were between Rs15,000 to Rs55,000. “Some of us plan to have a studio together and work. We want to keep up this routine of working diligently.”
Malakand born Sajid Khan decided to pursue miniature as he found it to be unique and wanted to learn the technique even though previously he had been painting. Khan intends to work in Lahore and said most of his work had been purchased. His work, priced between Rs10,000 and Rs50,000, he said, had been bought by ‘big’ collectors and teachers.
“My work is about the disorientation of place and space that you usually get when you are in a hospital or you wake up from a deep sleep or under the influence of certain medicines,” said Nisha Hassan. She said her imagery was abstract and she had shown the concept through the use of artificial white light. “These are images you get when you stare at white light for too long.”
The student, who comes from Sahiwal, said some of the best artists in the country were teaching at NCA and her experience at the art school had been great. Hassan said she hoped to continue painting. Her prices starts from Rs20,000 onwards. “Obviously, I have priced my favourite painting a bit higher (Rs30,000).” She had as yet not sold anything.
The students were rushing for a dinner on Tuesday night. Their jury results are due on Wednesday when the show opens to the public.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 18th, 2012.