The ability to be a creative person can be termed as a special gift. There are however, examples where individuals carry the genes of creativity from their forefathers and brush it up with contemporary education.
Mala Waseem is an outstanding Qatar-based visual artist. An art teacher and abstract artist, the Canadian national of Pakistan origin, has fast been making her mark in Qatar. Community interviewed the gifted artist about her creativity and vision.
Please run us through your journey so far
I was born and raised in Karachi, Pakistan and belong to an art-inclined family. I am fortunate to have received tremendous support from everyone around.
My grandfather moved from Jalandhar to Daharki, Pakistan, at Partition. He was a very artistic person and very well known in hand wooden carving at the time. So, as my father pursued his career in architecture and landscape designing, he moved to Karachi first and then served in the Middle East as an architect. One of my brothers, who is an engineer by profession, adopted our grandfather’s skills and has been working on wooden carved art pieces for mosques and interior design in USA for almost a decade.
From childhood, I had outstanding reports in drawing lessons and received many awards in school and college level contests.
That is the main reason, I insisted my parents to allow me to seek a career in fine arts, which they did. Initially, I selected textile design as my career subject because it helped build creative skills with a great professional career. My family and I felt extremely proud when I received my bachelor’s degree in Arts from Karachi University and distinction at Sindh Board of Technical Exams in textile design from Karachi School of Arts.
At that time, I decided to join National College of Arts, NCA, Lahore for MA (Hons) Visual Arts programme. My term at NCA proved to be a turning point in my life. NCA gave me exposure to the intensive art environment and culture that I needed to view the world as an artist and more as a person. And that’s how my artistic journey began. I have worked as a visiting lecturer at Karachi University and Karachi School of Art. Then I moved to Canada with my husband. For last 10 years, we are based in Doha with our two lovely daughters.
What kind of arts you are more interested in — realist, abstract or surrealism etc.?
My artwork is a constant search for the finest way to interpret the ideas and aesthetics that I have about myself and the world I live in. Through my abstract artwork, I aim to share my knowledge and create a meaningful dialogue between traditional and modern, simple and complex, object and subject, conscious and emotions.
Keeping oil paints as medium of expression in my paintings, I try to create textured and layered surfaces through palate knife strokes to convey several interpretations. I use dramatic and vibrant colour schemes, which allow viewers to connect aesthetically and conceptually with my paintings.
I am also taking my paintings to a next level through creative photography at different locations. I see every artwork has a relation to its surrounding that’s why it is important for a piece to dialogue and be perceived in a larger perspective.
Who has inspired you the most as an artist?
In the history of art, late Dr Akbar Naqvi, great Pakistani art scholar, art critic and writer was one of the greatest sources of inspiration for me. His intensive detailed book Image and Identity, 50 Years of Sculpture and Paintings of Pakistan marked a huge significance on art and culture of the region. Marjorie Hussain, Pakistan-based-British art critic and writer, is another big name in the history of art and brought greater value to the art scene in Pakistan.
From the Pakistani art scene Rabia Zuberi, late Lala Rukh, Rashid Rana, Jamil Baloch, Imran Qureshi, Shazia Sikandar and many more senior artists, not only inspired me but also have huge contribution towards art education in Pakistan.
Please tell us about your exhibitions and other achievements?
Most recently, I participated in a group show, Exhibition – Locus Amoenus in Rome, Italy. Another exhibition that I took part in was held at Oxygen Park, Qatar Foundation.
My painting tilted ‘Falcon and Falconry’ received huge appreciation at the exhibition namely Traces of Qatar held in celebration of Qatar National Day.
International Club for Unesco of Piraeus and Islands, 5th International Action Art Fair in Rome, Italy is yet another exhibition that I attended as an artist.
I showcased a set of abstract oil paintings at Ramart platform 2019 in Istanbul, Turkey, where I was honoured to participate along with four other Qatar-based renowned visual artists among 99 international artists.
Another fine group exhibition ‘Ingenuity’ was held at Katara and a set of three paintings were secured by a Canadian art enthusiast. My group exhibition ‘4 Vision Exhibition’ at Katara was also a huge success. There is quite a long list of exhibitions where my artwork has been valued.
Along with working on concept-based artwork for exhibitions, I also offer customised paintings to my clients through my social media page called Aesthetic Art Gallery. My unique, fine and abstract commissioned works includes paintings for restaurants, offices and for interior of Qatari homes and majlis.
Currently, I am working on a mega art project for a Qatari majlis and for the new building of Pakistan Embassy in Doha.
I am also preparing for my first solo exhibition next year at a prestigious art gallery in Karachi. I will be participating in group shows this year and next year in Qatar.
Having lived in Qatar from 10 years, I am also associated with Pakistani community services programme. I am connected and serving community from various welfares societies and forums. It is indeed an honour for me to be an active member of these nonprofit social entities.
How do you define ‘art’? How significant it is in your life?
Art creates eloquent dialogue between viewer and artwork itself. Art is not limited to entertainment; it has a possibility to create unlimited interpretation to its viewer. My recent series of paintings entitled ‘Texture in Rhythm’ portrays vital significance and reflects inspiration, celebration and affirmation while living in Qatar for almost 10 years. People usually misunderstood that art is just a stress relief therapy and good time pass activity. Studying art through the ages, we can see that any successful artwork holds a lot of research work and a frequent reproduction of artwork could secure a final piece.
Art is a constant search of intelligence and a process of being able to execute it aesthetically.
What piece of advice will you share with budding artists?
I will advise them to visit art galleries and opening ceremonies, which are mostly open to public, where one can get a chance to meet the artist, and able to dialogue with artwork and artist accordingly. Having firsthand interaction with artists brings much better appreciation of the artwork and its background.
The other very important point is to read art related books, for example History of Art and Design, Fundamental Elements of Art, and Art through the Ages. The more you have knowledge about the history of art, the more you could bring authenticity to your artwork.
How would you definite the art scene in Qatar?
I must acknowledge that Qatar is providing several avenues and platforms offering continuous patronage of art and culture. It is doing so not only for mature artists but also encouraging new artists to participate in art programmes and workshops. I would advise artists and art lovers to participate more and more in various art programmes. Follow Qatar Museums, Katara, Doha Fire Station social media network and you can find a lot of family and art activities, where you can register and benefit from.
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