The artist Wardha Shabbir lives and works in the city of Lahore, Pakistan where she graduated from National College Of Arts with honors in 2011, followed by the prestigious Principal Honour Award. Wardha has been awarded many scholarships, grants and was also selected for an exchange program in Paris,2010 with(ECOLE) during her Academic years(2007-11). She has been awarded the best young artist Award from AL-Hamra (2011). Since her graduation, Wardha has been widely displaying on both the National and International levels.
She has been the visiting faculty of the National College Of Arts (NCA) since (2012). She is currently running an open studio for students. She was the first artist from Pakistan selected for Flacco, Belgium where she initiated a research-based experiment on human Sensorium while transforming 2D miniature paintings into a 3D Interactive Environment. Wardha being a sensitive artist, absorbs and translated what she sees and experiences within her environment into her own language mostly using a technique that is traditional.
Artist Statement: Stemming from my interest in the myriad contradictions that inform human behavior, the path, or“Siraat,” has come to inform some of my recent work. Following this notion of the path, I take
reference from the everyday ‘Maps’ that we see around us, both the physical markings and the non-the physical realm of the mind. We construct maps almost about everything, not just to help us familiarize us with our own space, but also as a medium for markings, such as an incident, the future, and experiences. Various arrangements of foliage form relations with points, lines, and surfaces connect space to formulate the ‘organic geometry’ in my recent work. Similar to the foliage
growing in these motifs, my journey as a Pakistani woman artist signifies an abundance of growth.
The elements of my subjective experiences create interactive imagery that unveils itself gradually to the observer’s eye: formulating his/her own ‘visual vocabulary’. Having used surrounding spaces as a continuity of my canvass, I have moved on to create new ‘spaces’ within the paintings themselves, in the form of passages, enclosures, and sometimes even light. Abundant use of ‘blue’ incorporates the element of light, a symbol of spirituality and connecting with the sky, referring to the free state of mind in which we don’t have any geographical boundaries.
Team Salaamy: Orange and yellow why you choose these two colors
in most of your work?
Wardha Shabbir: Light can never have boundaries nor it can be enclosed within a structure, however, it can be contained to an extent. I am trying to
explore light by using this color within my paintings and installations. It’s about creating an objective experience, but it all comes from where I am rooted. The color yellow is the color of light I see around, it represents my geographical identity. It becomes part of my artwork in a very natural way. This color has been part of my present and parallel time, my living present, and my memory.
Therefore, it usually becomes the core base of my work but I don’t
choose this color to be part of my compositions- deliberately.
Yellow, also helps me to invite the viewer from a distance
towards my very small and intricate paintings.
Team Salaamy: Tell us something about the art scene in Pakistan and
life in Lahore as an artist?
Wardha Shabbir: Pakistan has brilliant artists; it has unbelievable talent all across the country. Pakistan has a very small art circle, everyone almost knows everyone. The pioneer of arts is the National College of Arts (NCA) where I graduated from and now proudly teaching as well. Many of the senior practicing artists who are well known in the world as well have been part of the fraternity as students and have taught here as well. This is what is unique about Pakistani artists that most of them serve as a teacher as well in various institutes.
I am very lucky to be situated in Lahore, like me many artists have chosen this historical city as their residence and practicing hub. Lahore has greatly influenced my work, many of the imagery is constructed through my daily visual reference of the foliage around this city. But not only the trees but the yellow light has also played a very vital role in my practice as well. This link to my interview made for the Jameel Art Prize (Victoria & Albert Museum London) will help you understand more about what I have to say about the city.
Team Salaamy: Which artwork is the closest to you and how it relates
to your personality?
Wardha Shabbir: This one, actually this whole installation that I created at the Jameel Art Centre Dubai for the Jameel art prize- Victoria and Albert Museum,.The whole space was a dark room in which these bright small paintings were floating at different levels and from a distance, it seems like light lamps that help invite the viewers from a distance towards themselves and oncoming closer it reveals the intricate details of miniature painting.
This particular painting is of a cube, surrounded by a clutter of birds. When I drew these little creatures on the wall and saw the whole motion of them coming around the painting – it seemed like water to me… how naturally they were coming towards the Omni sun and circumambulating the cube. This has insignificance meaning in Islamic tradition as well, the cube enclosed in a circle represents the Kaaba as well but here my painting is just not that it represents many things. The life and experiences one have in its journey.
Team Salaamy: What fuels your imagination what makes it so bright?
Wardha Shabbir: As I have already pointed towards the geographical placement of my self, my surroundings, and especially my experiences as a female practicing artist living and working in Pakistan. It’s not easy to balance while you are living in such a strict cultural atmosphere and now becoming a mother as well keeps me very busy and how I have to take time out for myself in which I can just focus and work- it’s a struggle these days and the pandemic is adding more to it. I hope this all gets over soon and we get to our normal selves. I find myself busier in the pandemic and the anxiety is really not helping to focus on the work.
Team Salaamy: What are the tools and techniques you apply in your
Wardha Shabbir: The technique I follow is of miniature painting, I have been trained in the hundred years old technique of rendering various dots together and forming an image, the process of rendering is called the ‘pardakht’. It’s a very slow and time taking process of sitting for long hours and constructing an image for months. The brushes I use dare of squirrel hair for the final and most intricate detailed work.
Team Salaamy: What would be the shortest definition of
contemporary arts and what made you choose this
form of art?
Wardha Shabbir: I never choose this nor I have ever pre-decided. I started producing art since I was a student and since then I have been into an intimate dialogue between my work and me. It has opened new horizons of knowledge and how beautiful and powerful our mind is.
My works hold my fingers and I follow, the work decides where it will go next. It evolves with patience and time. You learn a few new things with a new painting and at times you also unlearn some traditions to create something absolutely new or contemporary. However, my work has become minimalistic with time. Maybe because of the understanding of my subject as well the more I became clear, the simpler the imagery is.
Team Salaamy: When did you realize you are an artist?
Wardha Shabbir: Since I was a child, I always wanted to go to NCA (National College Of Arts), when someone used to ask me that what I want to be when I grow up I always replied, I don’t know but I want to get admission at NCA and my dream came true, I worked really hard to prepare for the exam. I was always good with drawing and creative activities but its such a difficult question for me. I don’t know how to answer it, Am I An Artist.It’s more like a label..maybe I would call myself someone who communicates in visuals rather than words.
Team Salaamy : Any message to emerging artists around the world?
Wardha Shabbir: Always believe in your dreams and never ever give up.
Team Salaamy: What are you currently working on?
Wardha Shabbir: Currently working on a few very interesting and exciting projects for next year.