ISLAMABAD: Khaas Contemporary hosted the opening of Flâneuse, an exhibition of Fatima Aamer Mustafa’s work.

Curated by Team Khaas, consisting of Shahbano Abbas, Saniya Farooq, Babur Gull and Zulfiqar Ali, the collection celebrates Fatima’s bold canvases.

The curators said Fatima draws inspiration from her upbringing in Lahore’s inner city where she observed a host of societal barriers that constrain and limit the roles of women in the public sphere. In her work, She explores stereotypes around gender roles and uses her work to challenge them and the status quo.

Team Khaas added, “Repelled by limitations posed on women, in Flâneuse, Fatima looks to reimagine the power dynamics that traditionally favour men and looks to break free from typical norms to demonstrate the strength and resilience of women as they claim spaces for their own”.

Fatima said, “In my artistic journey, I draw inspiration from my upbringing in the heart of Androon Lahore, where I keenly observed the myriad societal barriers that constrained the roles of women in both domestic and public spheres. It was these very constraints and the prevailing stereotypes associated with gender roles that propelled me into the world of art. My work revolves around creating satirical print-based paintings, which serve as a powerful medium for me to challenge the status quo and challenge these stereotypes”.

She added, “One of the central themes in my work is a critique of the male gaze and its influence on society’s perception of women. I believe that it is crucial to address the gender bias and the pervasive misrepresentation of women, and my art serves as a vehicle for this commentary. I strive to expose the subtle and not-so-subtle ways in which women are objectified and diminished in our society”.

Picking up archetypical scenes from streets and homes, Fatima captures a sense of the spaces women occupy. Within the Punjabi home, the ‘Char Dewar’ as is the title of one of the paintings, the women literally let their hair down, take over the entire canvas in multi-generational scenes set around the matriarch.

Aptly titled Flâneuse, a feminine derivative of a masculine figure of privilege and leisure who explores the world with abandon, the exhibition highlights the many public spaces where women are invisible by placing them front and centre on the canvases.

Zainab Omer said, “It is vibrant. I love the mixed media which is unusual. I like that she has used women’s names in the names of the shops. It is very different, unique – with a lot of vibrancy and emotions in the characters”.

Fatima’s technique draws on her training in printmaking. She explains, “The work is basically oil painting but I incorporate layers and layers of dry and wet mediums – oil and dry pastels, inks, sprays, markers, photographs, et cetera.

“There comes a time when I start treating them as my plates, like we do in printmaking. I throw on inks and wipe them off to see what tints they leave and how they react to the previous mediums. I treat the surfaces in each image differently to get the effect I am after. It is all about exploring and experimenting on the canvas.”

Roma Ali said, “I liked her composition and her use of different elements and images representing different moments in each painting. It kept the viewer engaged and guessing what might be happening in each story. I liked her use of bright colours and mixed media techniques - it gave her paintings a lot of depth. Her work is vibrant, bold and cheerful.”

Published in Dawn, November 24th, 2023

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