Nabiha Muzzafar remembers early days of her school life when she would do all her schoolwork in hurry to steal time for drawing. Now a talented young visual artist, Nabiha realised at high school that there is no running away from painting and drawing and she finally decided to be a professional visual artist.

“Like others I had a belief that making art can’t be a career to pursue but the passion to paint was overwhelming and I landed in department of Fine Arts at Institute of Art and Design of the University of Punjab, majoring in painting,” she says.

Gifted with a sharp observation and facility to draw skillfully, Nabiha learnt the fundamentals of painting very easily. During the early stage of academic training, she developed an understanding that there was no point to paint the subjects which were of popular fashion, to cater to the academics and commercial arena. The first body of works she created, for the degree show while doing Masters in Fine Arts, was based on the Japanese concept Wabi-sabi.

“It is an ancient Japanese art of finding beauty in all aspects of life, including imperfections. It is based on the idea that nothing lasts, nothing is finished nothing is perfect. It is about finding beauty in imperfections,” she explains Wabi-sabi.

Nabiha made striking installations by projecting the structure of polio virus composed with a paralytic human figure. A skilful play of light, shadows and their interaction with the space created a strong visual impact in her installations.

Along with studio practice, her focus remained on various concepts. She kept on exploring various mediums and subjects for image-making rather than repeating her works and staying in a comfort zone.

Nabiha Muzzafar
Nabiha Muzzafar

For the last few years, Nabiha has been making visuals using variety of mediums and visual elements to illustrate the concept of existence of physically non-existing objects. The concept triggered after the demise of her dear ones, especially her mother some years back.

“I would look at her empty chair on the dining table after her death and always feel her strong presence along with other family members on the table. It inspired me to think and read about the concepts of ‘Hast-o-Neest’ (existence and non-existence), metaphysics, Quantum Physics and sufism,” she said.

Nabiha mingles her concepts with various mediums, including a series of low-relief sculptures, casting images with thin acrylic sheets and transparent plastic grains, making videos using smoke as a major element, doing photography playing with refraction of light and subtle shadows created by light passing from a broken glass.

She is developing her visuals in multiple dimensions and has a tendency to grow in any of them but the paintings she creates seem more convincing.

Barbed wires, human figures, negative spaces and empty chairs are the major elements of her visual vocabulary. She patiently develops these works, employing thin layers of paint on low textured canvasses. Working mostly with monochromatic and mellow toned palette, Nabiha dares experiment with compositions.

“I started as a painter and believe, after experimenting with various mediums, that it is going to be my major medium of expression but I will continue to experiment with acrylics and working with molten plastic grains which are rarely employed as a medium to create art.”

She thinks that exploring the concepts in art is a never-ending story and one keeps on digging and finding new dimensions which are surprising, confusing and enlightening at the same time.

Published in Dawn, September 23rd, 2018