When did you first discover your passion for painting, and what inspired you to pursue a career in art?
I have always been very curious about my surroundings and environment, and I've had a keen interest in the stories of people. However, during my childhood, I was quite introverted and felt hesitant about speaking up and expressing myself. Then, one day, someone suggested, 'Why don't you join an art institute?' I was drawn to this idea and decided to enroll in the Alhamra Arts Council's drawing studio. That decision became a turning point for me. It was at the studio that I began to open up to people and started expressing myself more freely.
How would you describe your distinctive painting style to someone unfamiliar with the world of art?
Primarily, I consider myself a sculptor. I craft sculptures using metal and wood as my mediums. I create reliefs featuring human figures, which I then mounted on wooden boards. Following the sculpting process, I proceed to paint these reliefs. Additionally, I also produce three-dimensional sculptures, some of which exceed life-size dimensions.
Your artwork showcases a unique blend of colors and textures. Can you tell us about your artistic influences and how they have shaped your style?
Most of my influences stem from my surroundings. My work centers around the challenges faced by working-class people. Over time, I've observed how these hardships manifest on their faces—wrinkled, tanned, and weary. To me, they resemble weathered, rusted metal. I engage closely with hardworking individuals, spending time with them in their environments and workplaces, and engaging in extensive conversations about their lives.
Locations like railway stations, construction sites, government offices, and even gardens serve as my primary wellsprings of inspiration. These individuals hold often thankless, unrewarded jobs. The texture in my reliefs naturally emerges through the use of a welding torch and the meticulous beating of metal.
When it comes to color, I converse with people randomly, similar to my subjects. I inquire about the colors they associate with my paintings. This approach yields intriguing and one-of-a-kind ideas for my artwork. As a sculptor, I deeply admire the works of Rodin and Jacometti, among many other contemporary artists I come across on the internet and Instagram.
As an artist, what challenges have you faced throughout your career?
I have been involved in sculpture for approximately the past 20 years, although I had not been actively exhibiting my work. I maintained a small private collection, with individuals who would visit my home to acquire pieces. Initially, I never envisioned that selling art alone could sustain my financial responsibilities and support my family.
Consequently, I ventured into the advertising industry as an art director/creative director, building a significant career in that field. Pursuing art as a sole profession is undeniably demanding, requiring time to establish a distinct artistic presence, and it remains a continual struggle. However, with the emergence of the internet, my work has garnered visibility, and the feedback I receive in comments is truly rewarding.
Over the past few years, I have organized three solo exhibitions and participated in multiple group shows, garnering interest in my work. Now, several esteemed collectors proudly display my pieces, which brings me immense joy.
Paintings are a powerful medium to convey a message. What message did you intend to convey through your artwork?
As mentioned earlier, my artistic focus centers around the challenges faced by working-class men. My greatest source of inspiration is my father. During my childhood, I witnessed him commuting to his office on a bicycle. He worked as a clerk in a government office, a role that required him to travel 25 kilometers from our home. He diligently fulfilled this duty for 35 years until he passed away. Despite not being able to establish a comfortable life or home for himself, he never complained about his struggles.
He was my real-life superhero. Nowadays, when I observe individuals toiling day and night, I find immense inspiration. I created a sculpture titled "Bicycle Man with a Tiffin" as a tribute to my father, which was showcased in my inaugural solo exhibition at ‘Ejaz Gallery’. At present, my objective is to pay homage to hardworking individuals by exhibiting their representations in gallery spaces, shedding light on their arduous journeys and trials.
Do you have any specific rituals or routines that you follow before or during the creative process to get into the right mindset for painting?
Before I begin my studio work, I venture to various junkyards, old metal stores, and hardware shops located near the Lahore railway station to source my raw materials. Once I have my materials, I head to my home studio where I spend 4-5 hours each day immersed in my creative process, primarily during the daytime. While working, I often play loud music in the studio, mostly jazz and some blues albums. Music serves as a significant source of inspiration for me.
Could you share a few insights about the life of an artist in Pakistan and how supportive the government is in promoting art?
The societal landscape is evolving, and consequently, so is the field of art. People today are more receptive to visual and performing arts, a shift that I appreciate. Modern platforms like TikTok, Instagram, and Pinterest have played a substantial role in this change. These times are indeed the most intriguing in human history, filling me with hope and excitement. However, I'd rather not comment on government support for the arts.
Do you have a particular narrative or a series of paintings that you'd like to explore further in the future?
Currently, my narrative revolves around the lives of the working class. Yet, I cannot predict the future. I have transformed significantly over the past five years and, as everything around me changes, so does the art scene. Let's wait and see what unfolds!
If you could collaborate with any other artist, living or deceased, who would it be, and what kind of project would you envision working on together?
I haven't really considered collaboration before, but I'm certainly open to new ideas. Why not explore the possibility? One idea that resonates with me is creating sculptures for public spaces. I've always been uneasy about the exclusivity of art galleries, which don't always feel welcoming to the general public.
It's disheartening to witness ordinary people hesitating to enter these spaces. Galleries can often seem like they're reserved for an elite art circle and a specific social class, which is regrettable. I believe that art should be more public-friendly and inclusive, catering to all classes.
Therefore, working on art for public places would be an interesting avenue. I've already undertaken some commercial sculpture projects for various organizations, and those experiences were quite enjoyable.
What advice would you give to aspiring artists who are looking to find their unique artistic voice and make a meaningful impact through their work?
For budding artists seeking to carve out their distinctive artistic voice and create impactful work, my advice would be to closely observe the society they are a part of. Authentic art often has roots deeply intertwined with one's own background. Our societies are filled with numerous untold stories waiting to be shared through art. Hard work and dedicating substantial time to your artistic practice are crucial components of this journey.
Is there a question you wish someone would ask you in interviews, but no one has asked yet? If so, what is that question, and what would be your answer?
Beyond being a sculptor, I also hold a passion for jazz and blues guitar. I lead a band called "East Side Story the Band" and have contributed music to both Bollywood and local cinema projects. Additionally, I'm a part of another band named "Working Class Heroes," specializing in jazz and blues genres. An exciting event is coming up – we're performing on September 16th in Lahore at an international jazz festival organized by @lahorejazzclub, featuring a lineup of international acts.