From clay to colours

June 03, 2018

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She can’t think of life without radiant colours. Either it’s a matter of dressing up or painting, Dr Sophiya Umar firmly believes in the charisma of rich colours, as they are an overpowering element of her visuals.

Her mother would paint images from magazines; those paintings were her first inspiration to paint and draw.

Her first-ever artistic expression was making clay pots, jewellery and toys at a tender age.

“Playing with clay is one of the richest memories of my childhood. I was into crafts because a lot many things were taught in Convent where I had my early education.

“I would love to take ceramic classes and still have sculptures in my wish list. I might combine my paintings with sculptures; it is always a beautiful combination,” she believes.

Going to France in 2008 to earn a PhD on HEC scholarship was a watershed moment in her life.

“It was really a test of fire for me; living in an alien culture, away from my home and starting all art practices from zero after unlearning what I had learnt during my academic training in Pakistan was a tough task.

“Harsh climate like continuous snowfall and rain added to my depression. And above all, the language barrier made me helpless. I worked really hard to cope with the situation and put a lot of effort to be familiar with the (French) language.

“When I became comfortable with language, time arrived for me to leave for Pakistan,” she says in a lighter vein. Practicing as a painter for more than 15 years, she has five solo shows in France and six in Pakistan to her credit. Her work has gone through various phases, ranging from realistic to experimental.

“Mostly people jump into painting abstract visuals without going through the natural course of evolution. But, I have evolved my work gradually, enjoying every phase of its development. It is a complete journey spanning over decades of practice, which transformed my works from realistic to abstract.

“I always kept on experimenting and could not stick to monotonous type of work; life is a continuous, evolving phenomenon and so is art,”” she says.

She is currently working as an assistant professor at Multan College of Arts, Bahauddin Zakariya University, Multan. Teaching for more than a decade helped her develop a habit of reading and research.

Soft spoken Sophiya Umar is widely respected among her students because of her passionate and unconventional approach towards teaching.

“To me, every individual is important. I can see the possibility of grooming every student as a shining professional with an expression of his/her own except for very few, who are always looking for short cuts and copying others,” she says.

She develops most of her works employing a rich palette.These works also seems to be reflection of artist’s personality who is a decorated academic and an aesthetically oriented individual.

Her works have a clean and systematic design that often communicate about agreed ideals of beauty.

Published in Dawn, June 3rd, 2018