Saturday, May 23, 2015

Drawing Out the Message

I scavenge images from journalistic photography.
Faiza Butt

From domestic tranquilities need of impressing the in-laws to the experience of being a Muslim in a post 9/11 world, the work of the Pakistani born, London based artist Faiza Butt’s is unashamedly political. As she told Art RadarI do believe artists are social commentators. Hardship tends to sharpen their senses. They log and document truth and side towards fairness. They are trained to look in-between the hard projections of right and wrong. I do have that sense of responsibility! My work must provoke the unsaid, the truth, and make my audience think and question. Coming from a turbulent country such as Pakistan, it is only natural for me to be politically opinionated in my work.

So much so that this opinionated streak influenced the development of Butt’s style of painting whilst a student at London’s Slade School of Fine Art. As she has said “In the mid-nineties, the echoes from the New York art scene were still ringing strong at the art school, with its leaders like Jackson Pollock projected like rock stars who lived fast and died young! I observed that students were still very engaged in the discussion around the physicality of oil painting as a medium. I have always questioned the hierarchy of Western art history projected as the [only] art history of the world and the need to reinterpret the arts of the East…I chose to work on paper as a reaction to the physicality of canvas and oil paint. I consider my works elaborate drawings. I observed that drawing had a place in the hierarchical order of the painting tradition, but was considered “preparatory” and not complete. I decided to create obsessive, embellished drawings that rival paintings in their ambition.

From growing up surrounded by Pakistani Truck Art and the hand painted cinema billboards of Lahore to integrating herself into an English, Christian family, from her reaction to the female nude in Western art to the territorial nurture/nature aspect of childhood, all inform Butt’s portrayal of a divided world with inspiration more often than not coming from the mass media.

As she has explained “Photographs that are meant to influence the masses amaze me. I must add that the creative force that affects people instantly is not art but advertising. My initial ideas come from sources that exist outside the core of fine art. It connects with my early inspiration coming from the visual material that surrounded me in Lahore. Once I find a photograph that I feel can be extended into a meaningful image, I start to spin the web of supporting images around it, digesting the original image along the way and giving birth to a new narrative.

A narrative that explores the pressing global issues of the day behind a façade of enticingly colored images of the everyday pregnant with alternative meanings, As she told her sister, Nadia, in an interview in Pakistan’s Friday Times “I want to throw punches, to deliver a message without having to read up on the background and yet my work must also contribute to the history of painting.”

A survey exhibition of her work Faiza Butt: Paracosm is on show at Nottingham’s New Art Exchange until the 28th of June.

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