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Framed
August 22, 2018

Painting Beyond The Lines: Saqiba Suleman

Text by Huzan Tata

In the third part of our series spotlighting the works of Pakistani artists, we speak to Saqiba Suleman who’s ‘works represent shared tenets of society on both sides of the border.’

Saqiba Suleman

Tending to her two little daughters takes up most of her time at home, but in her free time, you’d find her brightening up a canvas with her brushes. Saqiba Suleman, hailing from Hasilpur in the Punjab province and now based in Lahore, entered the art world ‘by accident’, after attaining a gold medal and a master’s in fine art from Lahore’s Punjab University. Vibrant florals and the female form are essential elements in most of her paintings, and she mainly works with oils or acrylics. One who’d have loved to have lived during the times of Claude Monet and Édouard Manet — “the colour composition and the style of painting in their works are unreal” — Suleman feels a great sense of responsibility towards society as an artist.

Creative Beginnings
“I accidentally stumbled into this field. During my college days, there used to be limited number of classes that taught sketching and techniques to apply oil paints. Teachers at my college appreciated my natural knack for it. My family also encouraged me to pursue my talent seriously. I got admission in Punjab University and once I was there, my teachers had a major role in helping me identify my style. What began as an inspiration from the works of my teachers went on to become a style of my own.”

Traversing Themes
“My style combines three-dimensional figurines with two-dimensional floral backgrounds. What comes out of this merger is what satiates my creative sense. The use of deep variations and subtle gradations of light and shade aims to enhance the projection of the character. Most of my works revolve around the portrayal of a feminine figure, hence I attempt to uncover the impact of external elements, be they society, parents, or children, on the individual. This becomes particularly important in our strongly patriarchal society when that person is a woman. Sometimes, this impact can strengthen their resolve, and sometimes it can devour their individuality. On another level, my works also showcase my journey as an artist. This journey is a continuous one.”

Artistic Inspirations
“I am a huge admirer of the works of Iqbal Hussain and Saeed Akhtar. Their art primarily revolves around figurative works. Their use of colours, their compositions, and the way they draw the contours of human bodies are what I admire the most. I would love to own artworks by Vincent Van Gogh, Akhtar and Hussain and I also look up to the works of Felicia Forte and Andy Espinoza.”

Portraying Pakistan
“I do take inspiration from the legendary icons of fine arts from my country. They don’t consciously define my art but, yes, their works do influence the way I paint. I paint the way I perceive things. As I live in Pakistan, it is inevitable that the country would be represented — though I never forcefully represent it. My art, at a certain level, represents the kind of society I hail from. The general psyche of the society in the Subcontinent is similar, so I would say that my works represent shared tenets of society on both sides of the border.”

The Importance Of Art
“In the telling of history, I think art is extremely important. Where historians tell facts of the historical happenings, artists indulge in extricating the human nuances involved. Without artists and their works, the history of any nation cannot be fully comprehensible.”

Challenges And Achievements
“The greatest challenge in our industry has to be the preservation of one’s identity as an artist. Many a time, I have seen richly talented artists relegated to the fringes simply because one group of artists is more dominant. My greatest achievement so far has to be the shortlisting of my painting for Artrooms Fair London 2018.”

Pakistani Art In A Global Sphere
“Nowadays, South Asian artists get far more exposure than what they used to a few years ago. Yet, I believe that there is very little interaction between Indian and Pakistani artists. Both can learn a lot from each other. Pakistani art has seen an applause-worthy response in the field of calligraphy. Figurative painting has also been on the rise. Today, more than ever, people can relate to an artwork without wondering about the artist’s place of belonging.”

Art Around Town
“I would recommend a visit to Lahore, which is the cultural hub of Pakistan. Stop at the Alhamra Arts Council, Lahore Museum, and the Badshahi Mosque are a must. In Islamabad, don’t miss Tanzara Art Gallery for works by contemporary artists. In India, I would love to visit all the major cultural sites which I read about as a student.”

Future Forward
“I am working on some international projects and will also hold a solo show soon.”

Read Part 1 on Salman Toor here and Part 2 on Muhammad Zeeshan here

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