Taskeen Zahra chats with the internationally acclaimed artist, Faiza Shaikh, about all things art. How and when were you first introduced to art? Art is an integral part of life. We see it everywhere in nature, in words, in language and in pictures. I believe everyone is an artist but the form of expression changes, politicians through language businessmen through commerce and myself through paintings. So art has always been a part my life, I was never introduced. It’s my world view. What medium do you prefer to work with? I prefer not to bound by medium, my vision dictates the medium rather than the medium dictate my vision. I believe there two types of artists; those with a natural talent and those that have been trained. Trained artists are limited and bound to a medium in which they have been taught. As a natural talent artist, I am not limited by any medium and this allows more freedom in expression. How would you describe your sense of aesthetics? A mix between realism and cubism. Where do you find inspiration? The fluidity between art philosophy, politics and religion inspire me to paint. I find it interesting and challenging to know whether art is a product of our culture or culture the product of art. For instance, does art become gloomy and dark in times of recession and does it become more interesting and adventurous in times of prosperity? So art does play a major role in society in every way. When you’re working on a painting, is the image of what you’re painting and why always clear in your head or does it come together along the way? I usually don’t plan a painting. The painting evolves and takes its own direction. Each painting has its own soul character and personality which manifest themselves with each stroke of the brush. To best describe my art, Descartes’, and then later Locke’s, distinction between primary and secondary qualities is important to understand. The philosophers drew a distinction between qualities that are purely objective i.e. primary qualities like a rectangle— no matter who the viewer is they will always see a rectangle. Secondary qualities are those that combine the realm of subjective and objective together in a unique way like the colour blue. Objectively we all agree it is blue however subjectively each person will see the blue as different, some like blue some do not. In essence secondary qualities spark opinions, debate and view point. My art transpires from a primary quality in my vision, to a secondary quality on canvas. As an artist, do you think of yourself as a storyteller? If so, who’s story are you telling in your art collection? I believe telling a story is a much simpler yet equally admirable form of art. A story teller has endless pages to engage the reader with their unique viewpoint. In my art I engage the reader as much as an entire book yet limited to a canvas. The engagement is done through colour beauty and unique depiction. A book in essence in a composition of words which are not unique any two books contain the same words in a different order. Yet with art each brush stroke is unique and in my favourite works each stroke tells its own story. Your work involves a lot of different texts from holy scriptures. Is there a reason or purpose behind the use of different religious texts and traditions? As Sidharta Ghatama, the Buddha, said in his second noble truth the cause of suffering is ignorant desire. This noble truth is the purpose to use an amalgamation of different religious texts and traditions. Enlightening the viewer to reach nirvana Have you ever faced a backlash for the use of religious scriptures and text in your art pieces? I am not an artist that strives for controversy, but rather purity and beauty, I feel due to this controversy being avoided in my work, the aim and method is pure and I’m de-ontological in an ethical way the result is therefore pure and beautiful One piece of yours titled ‘Pakistan’ depicts Quaid-e-Azam with truck art and Arabic text. What was the idea behind this work of art? Pakistan many forget is a country in infancy ; torn between the cultures of west , the eloquence and sophistication of our founder , the influence of Middle East , the crudeness of feudalism and the beauty of our culture . The painting depicts the fusion of Pakistan. You’re based in London but often showcase your work in Pakistan. Where do you receive the most love? Everywhere! I love when two people from different backgrounds are looking at the same painting , one finds it curious , the other finds it new , ( as explained above being a secondary quality ) , the paintings are a path and insight into a culture , one who hasn’t visited Pakistan by viewing my painting on Pakistan will be tunnelled into the dynamics of the county . Do you ever experience an artist’s block? If so, how do you move past it? Never, I live through my art and my art lives through me. Having painted my first painting, still hanging in my mother’s house as a centre piece when I was 4, the concept of not being able to paint is like not being able to talk. In fact I find it easier to paint then talk! What movements in the world of art have been your favourite? Realism and cubism, the combination of the two is what I find in beauty in. What are you working on next? Come to my next exhibition to find out! Published in Daily Times, April 6th 2018.