Pakistanis are more talented and aware than the West, says artist Amina Ansari

Published 28 Sep, 2017 08:47am

Amina Ansari is a British-Pakistani artist living in Islamabad who aims to “bridge the gap between East and West”

Amina Ansari is a British-Pakistani artist living in Islamabad who aims to “bridge the gap between East and West”.

She has studied at Central Saint Martins in London, United Kingdom, and at the National College of Arts (NCA) in Lahore. Dawn sat down with Ms Ansari to discuss her work.

What influences or inspires you as an artist?

Amina: First of all, it’s my mother. She’s the one who recognised my art as a child. Then a few years later it was Gulgee, he told my mother that I would make a name in Pakistan, that I had a gift in art. I had no interest at all; when you cannot read and write and speak, you are in your own world and you get frustrated.

When I came to the NCA in Lahore, it was the first time I realised that there are influences from every level of life; the poor, the middle class, the upper class, the low profile to the famous - you meet all kinds [of people] and people from the West come back to Pakistan as well… For me it’s all about different walks of life.

With time I realised my colours, my technique, my skill was unusual. If you look at my work, you see layers by layers; you can see I’m mostly self-taught.

Amina's unusual portraits
Amina's unusual portraits

When I came to NCA [I had a teacher] who would throw chai over my work, and I would smile at her. She would wonder why this girl is smiling… and then she said, ‘fix this’. Ah, you want me to re-invent, you want me to play along with this.

In Pakistan, in art school, you have to explore new concepts, explore with materials. My next philosophy is Sufi and robotic, because I am half spiritual and half robotic - it could be humour, or it could be education.

You said that as a child you were ‘in your own world’ - how far is your work a way for you to communicate your own world to others?

Amina: I know my motives, I know my aims, I know myself 100pc. At that time I was unconscious…but with time I realised I’m not the only one with communication problems. I had to deal with all kinds of hardship; when you’re born with hardship, it’s part of you. But when you get older you laugh, you mock, people will think you’re the most insensitive woman - so for me, it’s humour.

I’m friends with the gatekeeper, I’m friends with the chef; I’m very strict, I’m very feisty, but with time people cry when I leave; it’s my gift.

Gulgee told my mother that I would make a name in Pakistan

Same with my artwork, I don’t plan every time - I just create and I surprise myself. And I have been very fortunate that when people look at my work, they [feel] an impact… I have been very fortunate that people are able to recognise my colours… even people who don’t understand art can have a reaction. Every single common man has a reaction towards my art.

Are there any forms of art that you’re looking to get into in the future?

Amina: In Pakistan, people are very hungry because they want to become like the West; by looking at the internet, by looking at books, by copying people’s ideas; they are far more talented and much more skilful and much more aware than the West.

We, in a way, have so much more to offer. So when I came back, even though I’m not a sculptor, there are so many options for first-hand materials in Lahore.

Originally published in Dawn, September 28th, 2017