Carving a niche
Humaira Abid, a young artist from Pakistan, broke stereotypes to take up wood sculpting
Humaira Abid: `Wood complements the forms of my work, which are very contemporary in theme and rendering.'
HER NAME, in translation, means "precious stone". The young sculptor from Pakistan, Humaira Abid, prefers to work with wood, though.
An Honours Graduate from the National College of Arts (NCA), Lahore, majoring in sculpture and miniature painting, Humaira is currently on a two-month residency at the Garhi Artists Studio, New Delhi. Midway through her programme, she took a break to visit Bangalore, which charmed her both by its physical setting and creative ambiance.
"I took to sculpture as a challenge," explains Humaira. "Even my art teachers thought I would choose painting and printmaking. They warned that sculpture was a very tough medium which would drain me both physically and mentally. It is well known that the number of practising sculptors in Pakistan is very small, especially women. I took up the challenge and am very happy about it."
For Humaira, the choice of wood as medium was deliberate. "Wood complements the forms of my work, which are very contemporary in theme and rendering. I like to use the hardest wood available, sheesham, just to stretch the experience to its limit."
Back home, she wears several hats: "I teach at three places, run a studio and do errands for my parents. At night, I totally focus on my art. That is the time I work, often till the early hours." In between all these hectic activities, she has found time to produce calligraphic reliefs and interiors of the Baab-e-Aazaadi at Wagah Stadium and design the sets for a television programme.
"Sculpture is an expensive discipline. So initially I did work out of my field to buy materials. Now slowly I am getting commissions and plough the money back into material. I have an arrangement with some workshops in the city where I get technical work on the lathe and other equipment and the final carving I do in the studio."
Besides sculpting, Humaira is also proficient in the highly demanding art of miniature painting, training under masters such as Colin David and Saeed Akhtar: "Miniature painting is also a very exciting and exacting medium, with strict boundaries in terms of size and structure. One has to be enormously patient to move in it. My grounding in miniatures has helped me gain a balance and harmony in my sculpture."
Humaira has participated in several group shows in Pakistan, besides holding four solo sculpture shows of her works. While viewers and collectors have noted her thematic concerns which encompass both the social and the personal, critics have glimpsed creative insight, imagination and lyrical quality in her works that intrude both the mental and physical space. Her sophisticated rendering of forms, outlines and structures has been applauded as has the intensity of her imagery.
Humaira likes to get under the skin of everyday objects in order to explore and delineate the diverse facets of human existence: "The images I try to explore are the humble and ordinary. I believe even an ordinary image hides something special inside. That is what fascinates me and draws me towards it to explore. I also feel that images and feelings wear masks like humans..."
One of her dreams is to establish a studio in Lahore on the lines of Garhi, "where all professional artists can have access to adequate space and technical facilities under a single roof." She also has plans to collaborate with Indian artists and organise group shows of artists from both the countries "I propose to come back to Bangalore early next year to work on bronze sculptures with a master here."
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