Inside Artist Ayesha Sultana’s Mind | Verve Magazine
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August 22, 2018

Inside Artist Ayesha Sultana’s Mind

Working across a range of mediums such as sound art, drawing and photography, she mulls over the relationships between different spaces, objects, materials and landscapes

Cataract II (2011) & Doubles (2012)

Cataract II (2011) and Doubles (2012) have different points of approach but are similar in their visual articulation and use of repetition. During this period, I was making drawings nearly every day without judging whether they were good or bad. The staple pin work was an experiment on rice paper to examine if the delicate surface could withstand the innumerable perforations made through the act of piercing.

In Doubles, I photographed air filters, ‘grayscaled’ them in Photoshop, printed them and ran them through a photocopy machine multiple times, which resulted in incidental versions of the original image with amorphous patterns. These types of exercises precipitated a new approach in my thinking, slowly shaping and informing an understanding of abstraction.


Rupture (2014) was part of 1mile2, a public art exhibition organised by Britto Arts Trust. It was a site-specific intervention in Shyam Bazar in old Dhaka. I gilded the running cracks and exposed brickwork of what remained of the decrepit architectural facade of Panch Bari that once housed a Hindu family along the Buriganga River. I was fascinated by kintsugi, the Japanese art of repair, and contemplated the temporary nature of the work — as the gold leaf tarnished and deteriorated until it completely disappeared over a period of time.

Outside The Field Of View IX

Outside the Field of View IX is inspired by an early series of graphite drawings from 2014. Having grown up in Dhaka, I felt that any direct depiction of the place would not do justice to my feelings about it. This was a challenge I struggled with for a long time. Some of my work is rooted in perception — in how we see things around us. One of my earliest inspirations while processing these drawings came from my affinity towards corrugated tin sheets — their rhythmic, polished metal being commonly used for roofs and wall boundaries around the city. I found the relationship between paper and metal really fascinating, especially the way both could be easily moulded and transformed. Paper as a material feels sturdy and resilient while allowing spontaneity and play. The meditative process of folding lines respond to bodily gestures, and these in turn reflect a fragment in the landscape.

Tabula Rasa II

Travel has been a constant in my work. Between mid 2011 and ’12, while living and assisting in an artist’s studio in Rome, I rarely felt the need to make work of my own. However, this was a gestational period. I spent endless hours visiting churches and old buildings, sketching, taking notes, looking at paintings and reading up on the artists and writers I admired. Tabula Rasa II is a Latin phrase which means ‘blank slate’ and suggests the mind in its primary state. The work derives its inspiration from the Pantheon in Rome. Encountering this ancient temple on an early morning in 2011 left a profound impression on me. Looking up and through the enormous dome ceiling with its oculus, it began to lose its moorings from the massive structure that gave rise to it. The sculpture I made was pieced together in wood; I attempted it twice and failed. But this is part of the pleasure and beauty of creating things.

Untitled (Birds I)

The recording of birds at dusk was in a field in the outskirts of Sonargaon. Untitled (Birds I) (2010) was a soundwork, installed with speakers in niches of varying heights, in a narrow walkway between two abandoned 19th-century buildings in Panam Nagar. It was winter and the dampness between the walls was considered part of the experience. It made me realise for the first time how any kind of intangible material could be used as expression in my work. Viewers were asked to enter the passage one at a time, to experience the intensifying crescendo and then emerge into an open green space on the other end.


Threshold (2012-’13) comprises a series of photographs that I collected from family albums and old bookshops. I took some of the photos, but they were mostly taken by my father from his travels while he served in the Bangladesh Air Force. The work stemmed from an interest in looking at images with the landscape split in half — a kind of anonymous, liminal space with an open horizon.

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