Talking to the walls

Updated May 28, 2017


Rabia Ajaz
Rabia Ajaz

Inspired by the paintings of Iqbal Hussain while having dinner at Kuku’s Den, she decided to drop the studies of law for visual arts during A levels. It becomes a never-ending story for visual artist Rabia Ajaz who had never thought of being a professional artist before.

“Coming from the family of lawyers, doctors and economists I was the first one who decided to be a painter. The only acceptable arts discipline for my parents was architecture, but working with the straight mechanical lines always seems monotonous to me,” she says.

An year after graduation in visual arts from Beaconhouse National University she got a Fulbright scholarship to study in Pratt Institute, New York.

After doing Masters she worked in the faculty of BNU and National College of Arts for a short period. With a realisation that teaching is hindering her passion to paint she had confined herself only to studio practices for the last couple of years, showcasing her works in Pakistan, India, Dubai and New York.

The works of Risham Hosain Syed, Farahat Ali and Ayaz Jokhio have been her permanent sources of inspiration.

She is grateful to Ayaz Jokhio for being instrumental in her artistic grooming during undergraduate studies.

“He has an understanding of my visual language, we share a same sense of aesthetics and I always trust his judgment,’’ she says.

The first body of works she created was a series of large-scale realistic self-portraits merged with the architectural images.

While doing Masters in Pratt Institute she got nostalgic about Lahore and produced a series of works based on street photography she had already done in Lahore.

In a striking contrast to the previous large-scale self-portraits, they were two square inches abstract paintings.

“In this fast pace life people seem restless, they walk in the gallery and move on without getting intimate with the paintings. I want them to halt, to come close like viewing something from a key hole or a telescope and make a dialogue with visuals,” she says.

Determined not to repeat her works, she kept on experimenting with the subjects and scale of her visuals. After coming back to Lahore, she started portraying walls in her paintings.

“Walls narrate the times. We all love recalling and relating to the past. There is a sense of longing and nostalgia in it. We all grow up in the walls and all our evolution is witnessed by them. The metaphor of walls is like a witness to our entire life. We only realise our attachment when we are leaving the places where we lived our life. Every dust mark and stain on wall is like a whole story to me. I believe that we must talk to the walls the way they talk to us,” she says.

In her recent works, she blurred the boundaries between the reality and the painted illusions. By fusing paintings with the genre of installation she created a strong visual impact. The roughly treated rustic and decaying walls served as a contrasting backdrop for delicately rendered paintings.

Using thin layers of acrylic paints on low textured surfaces she produced realistic visuals which is quite a challenging task especially dealing with shadows and monochromatic objects.

Skilled and hard working Rabia is gifted with a sharp eye. She observes the minute details like dripping rust from the metal screws and paints it patiently with delicate pointed brushes.

Published in Dawn, May 28th, 2017