Artwork

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THIS HEIRLOOM (2012-13)

This Heirloom was inspired by my film work on ‘A Thin Wall,’ a film about the 1947 partition of India.

I think a lot about identity, about being a hybrid, about the segmentation of one’s personality, one’s worldview, one’s emotions and their reconstitution into something whole. I worked for 7 years on a film about the partition of India, about the segmentation of history, of people’s cultures and identities. Once partition occurred, Pakistanis and Indians had to re-invent themselves in more concrete, sharply defined ways and these were by definition ahistorical, unidimensional representations of who they had been for thousands of years. Today an excess of information is instantly accessible, yet its synthesis into something meaningful is missing. As our thinking becomes more fragmented and short-term, the practice of re-writing history in order to create more urgent, black and white narratives has become easier. Our link to the past seems to be breaking down. I long for such a connection.

Poet Agha Shahid Ali talks about this inextricable bond in his poem “Snowmen.” His ancestors came from the Himalayas and settled in Kashmir.

This heirloom,
his skeleton under my skin, passed
from son to grandson,
generations of snowmen on my back.
They tap every year on my window,
their voices hushed to ice.

In another project I was involved in, I was struck by the importance of witnessing as a dynamic radical act, a correction of ahistoricity and a discovery of our own truth. It occurred to me that my ancestors too witnessed much turbulent history and that their witnessing is, to some extent, what binds us together.

Finally, borders and checkpoints have never meshed with my own life experiences. They are wielded for the benefit of capitalism, settler colonialism, state building, and empire. They formulate and maintain world hierarchies. In this art series, I subverted borders by placing my Pakistani and Indian family members on the wrong side of the India-Pakistan divide.

These are some of the ideas behind this series of artwork. (Ahmed, 2013)

Artist’s talk at Colacino Gallery, Nazareth College in 2014:

My paternal grandfather Chaudhry Habib Ali
standing in front of the Jama Masjid, Fatehpur Sikri, India

Newsprint, fabric and acrylic paint on watercolor paper

My maternal grandfather Rashid Ahmad Qureshi
seated in front of Delhi gate, Lahore, Pakistan

Newsprint, fabric and acrylic paint on watercolor paper

My father Saleem Murtza as a young boy
in front of the Pearl Mosque, Lahore Fort, Pakistan

Newsprint, fabric and acrylic paint on watercolor paper

My mother Nilofar Rashid as a little girl
Lord Ellenborough’s Folly on the Calcutta Course, India

Newsprint, fabric and acrylic paint on watercolor paper

My paternal grandfather Chaudhry Habib Ali
in Lahore, Pakistan

Newsprint, fabric and acrylic paint on watercolor paper

My mother Nilofar Rashid as a young woman
Bijapur Ibrahim Rauza Mosque, in India

Newsprint, fabric and acrylic paint on watercolor paper

Embroidered dreams:
My paternal grandmother Niaz Fatima

Newsprint, fabric and acrylic paint on illustration board inside antique wood frame

My mother Nilofar Rashid and her sister
Graphic collage on paper

My father Saleem Murtza – 1
Graphic collage on paper

My mother Nilofar Rashid – 2
Graphic collage on paper

My mother Nilofar Rashid – 3
Graphic collage on paper

My mother Nilofar Rashid – 4
Graphic collage on paper

My mother Nilofar Rashid – 5
Graphic collage on paper

My mother Nilofar Rashid – 6
Graphic collage on paper

My parents Nilofar Rashid and Saleem Murtza – 1
Graphic collage on paper

My parents Nilofar Rashid and Saleem Murtza – 2
Graphic collage on paper

My paternal grandfather Chaudhry Habib Ali – 1
Graphic collage on paper

My paternal grandfather Chaudhry Habib Ali – 2
Graphic collage on paper

My maternal great-grandfather Adbul Majeed Qureshi
Graphic collage on paper

My uncle Eitizaz Hussein and my father Saleem Murtza
Graphic collage on paper

SYNTHESIS (2004)

This exhibit is unique in that it brings together many facets of my work – collages with South Asian fabric, graphic work inspired by Robert Rauschenberg, lithography turned into multi-media art, color photography, and film. But let me explain more.

I was born in Lahore, in Pakistan, and grew up in the middle of Europe, in Brussels. French was the first language I learned to read and write and for much of my youth I thought of myself as being European. During my teenage years we returned to Pakistan and things began to change. Synthesis is a process in which two or more pre-existing elements are combined together, resulting in the formation of something new. This process continued and was transformed once more when I moved to the United States, after I got married. Another culture, another aesthetic, another sensibility.

It took many years for me to become somewhat comfortable in my skin. It can be uncomfortable to never be one thing, but it’s also incredibly exciting and I hope that you will enjoy some mementos from that long and fascinating journey. (Ahmed, 20008)

Artist’s talk at Kinetic Gallery, SUNY Geneseo in 2008:

Ibn-e-Insha
Inspired by Ibn-e-Insha, an Urdu poet and satirist famous for his travelogues, which are replete with colorful characters and places. Digital Collage, December 2004

Bumblebee
Conveys the hum and busy work of a bumblebee. Digital Collage, November 2004

Verdure
Digital Collage, November 2004

Lahore from a rooftop
Depicts a view of Lahore, from a rooftop. Flat and accessible, rooftops are an extension of living space in Lahori homes. During Basant, the kite-flying festival that celebrates the arrival of spring, rooftops are crowded with people flying colorful kites and enjoying lively soirees. Digital Collage, December 2004

NYC billboard
Evokes city billboards – chipped and peeling after years of usage, and layer upon layer of commercial messages. Digital Collage, November 2004

Sunset
Digital Collage, November 2004

Chandelier
Digital Collage, December 2004

The other side of the fence
A play on being engaged vs. just “sitting on the fence” and on how we build fences to keep what’s different out. Digital Collage, December 2004

Imagologues deconstruct woman
This Rorschach collage series was inspired by the word imagologue. Coined by the Czech writer Milan Kundera in his book “Immortality,” imagologue is a combination of image and ideologue. It encompasses advertising agencies, political campaign managers, publicists, and image consultants – entities that peddle image to the detriment of real content. This series looks at how women’s bodies, and in many cases their body parts, are used to sell products and services by manufacturing extrinsic value. Women are stereotyped as being aggressive, sexy, seductive or simply decorative in order to create a marketable image that transcends the actual nature and function of a product. Digital Collage, September 2004

FLUX (2002)

This series of artwork was created in North Woodmere, Long Island. Coming soon.

Great art has the possibility to evade our lives; it makes us feel something before we know how to express it.

Angela Davis
NYU Skirball Talks