Visual artist Warda Naeem Bukhari remembers the early days of her childhood, roaming and playing in the narrow lane of Sarafa Bazaar in Multan. The bright colours and intricate forms of indigenous Patoli (Silk thread making) craft works and jewellery, created by traditional local artists, made a lasting impression on her life and art.
Gifted with a sharp eye and determined attitude, she is paving her way in Pakistani art scene and getting recognised by the international art collectors because of her visuals, based on ethnic crafts.
A below average student, she would make cartoons of her teachers she disliked because of boring subjects they taught. In high school, she decided to opt for visual arts as a profession.
After graduation in graphic designing, she packed her bag and silently left her house to join the National College of Arts (NCA) in Lahore.
“I believe that my parents prayed to Allah to design my life as a professional who could make good money as they didn’t want me to be an artist. I made a decision and came to Lahore at a family friend’s house,” she says.
Warda thinks that studying at the NCA groomed her a lot and she learnt to create artworks, analyse them and talk about art forms. She acknowledges the people from various disciplines of visual and performing arts with whom she had regular discussions that helped her refine her aesthetics, especially the taste for music.
She earned a degree of Master’s in Visual Arts from the NCA in 2012. With a couple of solo shows to her credit, she is currently doing PhD in Art History from the Institute of Art and Design, University of the Punjab.
Jewellery and human anatomy are major part of her visual vocabulary.
“I learnt jewellery designing during my graduation. I have been attracted to mental hospitals, women’s jails and the dead house as the subjects to create art. Studying anatomy at the dead house in Nishtar Hospital Multan was a very overpowering experience. It was scary, but played a very important role in shaping my concepts of life,” Warda says while talking about her subjects.
She considers human organs as natural jewellery gifted to humans by nature and relates it to the ornaments people use to beautify themselves. She was making visuals with an emotional attachment to the traditional crafts of Multan but doing a three months residency at Arizona State changed it into a conceptual understanding.
“Working with artists from different cultural backgrounds helped me broaden my visual understanding. The collectors appreciate my work as an art originating from my very own cultural traditions. It makes me realise the importance of developing visuals with ethnic elements instead of following the western standards of aesthetics. Now I think Pakistani art must look like Pakistani art,” she believes.
Most of her works are skilfully composed and she relates it to her training as a graphic designer.
“Until and unless I explore the reasons for symbols, why I am using them and in which direction they are taking my visual, these countless concerns and questions make me think a lot before starting a work. I can’t work like a water-colour or miniature painter who goes with the flow of medium. I start always with a well-cooked plan but in the process the spontaneity comes and it deviates me from the preconceived composition and the works end up mostly with pleasant surprises,” Warda explains her style of work.
In most of her works, she employs a variety of forms and radiant bright colours, which look in a seamless harmony with smartly composed drawing prints of basic human anatomy.
Published in Dawn, February 6th, 2018