Often, one thinks of artistic thought within the boundaries of a canvas, with a view to enjoy the piece in the privacy of an interior space. However, the urgency of aesthetic thought spills over into various forms, both inverse and surprisingly subterranean. The latter is true for the works of the three artists featured in this piece, who recently displayed their work at Beaconhouse National University’s Mariam Dawood school of Visual Arts and Design thesis show. The projects of these artists caught my eye, mainly for their highly inventive use of mediums and the alterity of their vision. Rameesha Azeem’s sculptural forms presented an intimidatingly raw spectacle to the viewer. Her practice aims to disrupt conventional attitudes to the depiction of the body through a perspective that can be termed dissident,and powerfully so. Rija Fatima’s textile based work incorporates dream-imagery in an insightful and novel manner employing the technique of appliqué in good measure. Mahnoor’s Irfan’s jewellery delves into the oft-occluded world of insects and lifts them from lowly creatures to muses. Read on for more on their craft and vision.
Please describe the conceptual framework behind your project?
Rameesha Azeem: My work revolves around the idea of the existence of the body. It is harnessed by the idea of the transformation of the being, thus my divulgence into ambiguous visual forms. My work also focuses on the dismantling of the physicality of a body and its relation with death, hence, the visual oscillates from representation to a certain degree of abstraction. My project draws on a range of sources from the clinical to the morbid, juxtaposed with certain structures from the city, creating a contrast with the fragility of a personal body to the infrastructural bodies already existing in the public realm. The process and the transference of the idea leads to a peculiar style, that may be seductive/repulsive, male/female and organic/manmade. I am trying to challenge stereotypical perceptions of the body in elegant yet unconventional forms throughout my practice. I am keen to explore the blurring of the boundaries of sexuality and of ourselves as singular and stable beings, bridging the gap between the conscious and the unconscious mind. This inevitably leads to a grotesque yet engaging visual experience.
Rija Fatima: The main purpose of my project was to raise awareness about the concept of lucid dreaming by visually transferring my dreams through my medium, and turning them into reality. A dream is said to be lucid when the sleeper realizes that they are in a dream. It is like drawing on an endlessly blank three dimensional canvas, where the possibilities are only limited by imagination. I was keen to explore this tremendously exciting concept.
Mahnoor Irfan: As far back as I can remember I’ve been fascinated by the natural world, indeed, I cannot imagine being that passionate about anything else. But what really excites me are the small animals, the ones that make all the ecosystems tick. I cannot imagine anything better than crawling into the rotten trunk of a fallen rainforest tree to discover a dank, hidden world populated by multitudes of insects and spiders, and marveling at the sheer volume and variety of moths attracted to an ultraviolet light bulb.
What mediums/materials did you choose and why?
Rameesha Azeem: My colour palette ranges from flesh-like colours to the colors of decay. I have a tendency to use cloth, latex, wax, metal, plaster, ceramic and glass. Every material has its identity and it communicates and reinforces its presence with the idea itself. As wax is mouldable, it shapes itself, takes colour and solidifies into any detailed mould, it allows me to develop flesh tones with realism.Latex is approached in the same way as it takes form very easily. Latex as a material holds immense significance in my work. In its connection with commercial use such as in gloves, it takes the shape of the body in multiple ways. On the contrary, glass, a brittle yet delicate material, captivates the viewer yet makes one anxious to stand in proximity to it. I love making use of the possibilities of these materials.
Rija Fatima: My work shows how a lucid dream’s turbulence can be put together by design to form a streamlined picture. The final pieces of my project featured symbols which were literal projections of my subconscious. The color pallet of my work is on a gradient from black and white to a blend of sharp colors which depicts how my dreams venture from the dull to the beautiful. I explored a diverse variety of textures, for example, cotton,fleece, silk. Exploring the technique of appliqué with these collected fabrics of different textures and patterns was the best possible way of bringing to life my digitally printed sketches.
Mahnoor Irfan: The beauty that I see in insects people find strange or are even rebuffed by. My jewellery deals with the tension that lies between beauty and aversion. I take materials such as silver and semi precious colourful gems to make ordinary insects into beautiful ramp jewellery pieces .The creatures are transformed and given a new life as objects of awe.
Which other artists/writers/creatives have informed or inspired you throughout your artistic practice?
Rameesha Azeem: I enjoy works by artists such as Eva Hesse, Louise Bourgeois, Sarah Lucus, Helen Chadwick, Judy Chicago, Kiki smith, Phillip Perreno, and Berlinde De bruyckere. Writers that inspire me are R.D Laing, Jung, Jean Paul Satre and Dante.
Rija Fatima: Throughout my thesis my inspiration was Katie Essam. Katie has a crisp, modern way in dealing with material craftsmanship, utilizing exceptional blends of media and procedures to make mixed media works of art propelled by regular articles and scenes. An obsession with detail is her specialty and likewise my work also champions the integrity of minor details.
Mahnoor Irfan : There were many artists that inspired me to work on my thesis but my favorites are Hubert Dupert and Joan Danziger. Hubert works primerly with the Caddisfly insect. This insect spins protective silk cases which incorporate bits of material from their surroundings, such as gravel, twigs or small pieces of shell. Hubert makes use of the caddis larvae by gently placing them in an environment full of gold, pearls and semi-precious stones. The caddis then spins these materials into their casings to produce breathtaking jewel-encrusted covers. Although he gives much of the credit to the larvae, I think his creative intervention into nature is the product of a truly beautiful imagination. Joan on the other hand creates exaggerated sculptures of insects. Her primary idea is to elongate and exaggerate them and to make them beautiful. Her sculptures range from one to six feet in length. She essentially builds mosaics of cut glass within the beetles’ wire frames. For the insects’ shells, she melts glass decorated with frit, or little pieces of colored glass, in a large kiln; the glass slumps over a mold, which gives the shell its curvature.
What do you aim to work on next? Will your future work be a deviation or a progression from your thesis project?
Rameesha Azeem: My future project will be a progression from my thesis project, I will continue experimenting with materials I have previously used while philosophically pondering upon ideas that maintain my curiosity. I plan on creating sculptural works that question the existence of industrial material, its usage and how it can induce a certain sentiment in the viewer.
Rija Fatima: I wanted to be an interior designer all my life, and I’m intending to take my work forward in that field in as many innovative ways as possible.
Mahnoor Irfan : In the future I hope to create jewellery pieces that will be a progression from my thesis work. I would like to take inspiration from the different parts of insects into wearable art pieces. As I am so much into creating statement and bold jewellery, I’d love to mix my fascination of insects into statement pieces.