Dec 21 | Interviewed by Minahil Kasher
The Rungg Collective is about conversations with artists from Pakistan.
Party for-rest | Linocut | 30” x 40”
Locked and blue | 12” x 8”
Meow-L | Linocut | 8” x 8”
Let’s get started with you and a little bit about yourself, your background and your work.
Jawaria: I recently graduated from NCA earlier this year in January. I majored in printmaking. I was a Fine Arts student, but I majored in printmaking. Right after graduation I worked with French/Algerian artist Rachid Korachi. Currently i am working at Inkster Print Studio, so I’ve been practicing my art through that. Along with that, I’ve been doing other projects and freelancing.
Very cool! You mentioned that you just graduated, what was that like with COVID?
Jawaria: I graduated right before Corona. So in January so it was all good and we were so happy we’re graduating. We had plans and we didn’t know what is about to happen so it was really shocking for us, yes, but I’m so glad that we graduated at the time that we did. Because we were done with the final thesis display and the show was done, so we never went through that hectic and stressful time of getting it done during COVID.
That’s great! So you got to take your time with your thesis and graduation which is really important. So tell me a little bit about your art background and how you got into art school and what made you want to get into art school?
Jawaria: Okay so it’s very cliche, but yes, I always wanted to be an artist! I remember when I was a kid, I got my first sketch book at like 12 years old. I used to paint with the paints we normally just used to use as kids. I remember there were different medicines at home, I used to mix them with water, or oil and I used to paint with that as well. My father is a forest officer, so I spent a good amount of time in nature. So everyday after school, I had a routine to go and pick up flowers and collect bugs and all that. I used to mash the flowers and get pigment out of it. But back then I had no idea that was actually a thing.
Wow!! So the organic way of getting paint!
Jawaria: Yes! That’s how I got started. And at the time, I was living in Gujrat (Pakistan). It’s a small city in Punjab, not as developed as Lahore. In 2010, I moved to Lahore and I did my school and all. I had this idea and I knew that I was going to go for art. I was very young when I got to know about NCA and I was like yes, this is where I want to go no matter what. When we’re children, certain professions attract us like oh I want to be a doctor or I want to be a Pilot. All those things never attracted me. I was always just interested in colors and visuals. The movies and the books that I used to read were all fantasy based and very illustrative. I got into NCA and I knew I wanted to go in the fine arts department but I didn’t plan what major to pick yet. As for my work, my work was inspired by nature and fantasy based things, books, storybooks and all because all the books and movies I was watching and reading heavily impacted me in a good way. I created my own fantasy world for myself. I mostly enjoyed my thesis more rather than stressing out about it, because I wasn’t worried at all for the final product or all the work I have to do. It was just so much fun for me. I just did not want that time to end. I was four years worth of hard work! And I did not want it to end. I wasn’t thinking that okay I have to make this work so I can sell it. I was just focused on the fact that this is the one moment I have been working and waiting for. And so that was a very exciting time for me.
That is so refreshing because you always hear art students being stressed out about final shows and portfolio. It’s always very hectic, so it’s so nice to hear that you actually had so much fun doing it. Can you tell me a little bit more about your thesis and final show and what it was about?
Jawaria: It basically came from my surroundings because as I told you, my father’s a forest officer so I spend a lot of time in nature. It heavily affected me like in a good way, I was always surrounded by it and it kept on inspiring me and giving me more ideas and all. And then along with that the books and movies. It was all fantasy based and euphoric. I was trying to create this ideal, perfect world for myself. Because I knew that nothing of the monotonous nature is going to work. So I thought okay, I can create my happy place. Maybe it’s temporary, but it’s there. When I’m in it, I’m having the time of my life, so it’s like temporary happiness and it was for me. I had no intentions of changing the world with my art or something like that. I only wanted to be happy about what I make, and not regret it. It was a really basic idea, creating your own happiness and how simple things can be just as perfect for you.
Right, It’s not about like you’re sitting down in front of like, whatever thing you are making and you’re thinking about what should I? How should I make this perfect? It’s just about the simple things. I feel like that would have helped you a lot throughout this year, specifically, when you can’t go out, you can’t see anybody. So did that help you in that sense where you created your own little world? Or were you like, I don’t really want to paint or draw?
Jawaria: This one year, this whole COVID time, it was a blessing to me. I had so much time for myself. And I knew there were no extra parties to go to, no extra events to attend so I knew I had time. I told myself that I’m just going to focus on my work. And then when I was doing my thesis, I did like an 18 feet by 12 feet installation of prints and then there were other prints as well. But still, I had this idea that this is not resolved yet. So I wanted to take my time and resolve that. Plus after the thesis and finals, you do not have any worry about having to show your work to professors or getting a grade or passing the class. So I had fun doing things throughout this year and I learnt a lot. Because sometimes you’re doing things because you are under pressure. So this year I had so much free time and all the freedom in the world. So I was having so much fun just doing work and experimenting. I said to myself I can actually live this way for like two or three more years.
That’s great! You’re turning all of that negative energy into something positive, so that’s really cool. Can you talk about how you get into that kind of mindset and your creative process? You talked a lot about nature and fantasy and euphoria and things like that impacted you. What is your actual creative process and how do you get to your finished product?
Jawaria: So maybe it’s like a practice now but whenever I see a thing, even if it’s very simple and very basic, my brain automatically turns it into something that’s illustrated right away. So I always see things in multiple perspectives and then I jot it down. I never sit down and do any research or anything like that. I like to go real smooth, think about the elements that I am going to use. Then I go and research it, like, if I’m using this rabbit, why is that? And then I read about different mythologies and places it has been used. I ask myself the questions, why did they use this color of rabbit? What was the rabbit used for? What is it depicting? If I’m using a Lotus, why is that? So I do my research on individual pieces. But visually, it’s very simple. Anybody who is looking at it will be able to understand it. They might not get the entire idea, but they will get the gist of what it is. I like to give them these open doors for themselves to interpret it anyway, and it’s fine.
Right, art interpretation itself is it can never be limited to one thing. So it’s really cool that you just let the audience or the viewer think whatever they want. The type of research that you’re describing is so different from the type of research that people normally do, which is everything at one time. But you are going into the detail of one specific thing. Anything in pop culture, other than books that have impacted you? Like movies? Because, I am thinking of Alice in Wonderland a lot with your work.
Jawaria: Studio Ghibli, the Japanese film studio. They have all animated, fantasy based movies. I do not normally watch movies, I watch animated films that are all based on fantasy and not too much related to real life. Because we have so many stressful things going on around us. I don’t want to look at real life things that are just going to make me feel miserable. But something that could give me positivity because I think the movies we choose to watch and books we choose to read, we are feeding our brain basically. It’s going in, something will come out of it. So if I’m looking at things that actually make me happy, I am going to be in a happy mood. I don’t want to have that extra stress.
Right, I’m just thinking about all the colors and like whimsical flowers and it’s painting a picture in my mind. It’s so cool that you can just do that by talking about it. What was the reaction of other people when they saw you do this kind of art?
Jawaria: So surprisingly, it was actually brilliant. Normally, printmaking is in black and white and monotones, not too much color. And it’s mostly just on the paper. So what I did was, also unknowingly, I created multiple plates and then I did these cut outs with those prints. And then I started making this collage sort of installation and it turned out to be a huge installation. Normally, if things are too big, they do have more impact and then if they are very pleasant to look at, they’re very welcoming because of the colors, people actually love it. And surprisingly, kids loved it too. Even the older people were like oh it reminds me of something from my childhood. People actually were interacting towards it, and they felt nostalgic while looking at the installation. It was an overall good response.
That’s great! As artists, that’s what we often want to do for people to resonate with the work that they create, no matter the age. I’ve never done printmaking, but the process has always been intriguing to me. But how did you do it at home? Like when you weren’t using that setup and machines and plates, how did you adjust to that and what did you do instead?
Jawaria: Okay, so that’s talk a bit about printmaking. Printmaking is basically it’s mental and physical labor both. So it’s not something that everyone will enjoy, but I actually enjoyed it because I had a lot of energy like mentally and physically. I had all these ideas and I just needed somewhere to let those out and that’s why I picked printmaking. As for how I did it at home. So my mediums that I mostly work with are linocuts and woodcuts. So we have a plate, and then we draw on it and then we carve it. And then comes the inks and rollers and all that. Mostly you need a press for that. So what I did was, I started searching online for other ways that could help me with this. Then I realized it needs a lot of pressure so I started doing it with spoons, like a wooden spoon. Putting a paper on it and stepping on it because I knew the body weight would transfer the ink. So that’s how I started doing that. But, if I am doing etchings, then I need a studio space for that because it needs acids and a printing press as well and I need a space for all of that.
The printmaking process sounds complicated, but the end result is so beautiful. The intricate details in there are just amazing.
Jawaria: The thing about printmaking is that even when you make it, you’re clueless about how it’s gonna turn out at the end.
Right, it’s something new everyday. So what other than paper or the medium that you have been using, do you use anything else to do your prints on?
Jawaria: Recently, I started doing these tote bags. I bought myself some loose canvas and I got them made into tote bags and then I printed them on. Some were screen prints and the rest of them were like linocut stampings. I transferred the exact same idea and the same technique but just on canvas. I can use any sort of cloth or canvas. Basically anything that can pick up color. Even if it’s a wall, you can also do it. But only if it’s lino, because it’s flexible. Wood won’t do that for you because it’s hard and It’s not that much possible for us to transfer color onto harder surfaces. But if you have soft cloth or even leather, you can always do that.
It’s really interesting that you didn’t just get them ready made but got them stitched yourself!
So is anybody in your family an artist? Do you have an art background?
Jawaria: No, nobody’s from an art background in my family. Not yet.
Right, not yet. Your dad sounds like he has a really cool job because of being in nature. What was your parents reaction to you going to an art school?
Jawaria: They were very supportive towards this because they knew ever since I started showing interest towards art. They knew I wanted to go to an art school right from the get go. And at one point when I was pretty much sure that okay this is what I’m going to do, and I’m going to go to NCA, they were like go for it! They were always very supportive towards me. They’re also my biggest critiques as well. They are never like, oh, wow, this work is amazing or this is beautiful. It’s been four or five years now and they’ve never been like oh this work is amazing. They’ve always been like oh this could be better this way, maybe you can fix this detail, maybe you can add this in.
That’s how you know that they really care. Both my parents are artists so I never ever expect a “this is great” from them whenever I show something to them. I always expect some kind of criticism. So I totally get it.
Jawaria: I think it helps us a lot.
Oh yeah, definitely! So what other mediums do you usually work with? Other than printmaking? Because I am thinking about a lot of watercolors with your work and the flowy and colorful feel to it.
Jawaria: Yes! I do paint and I do prefer watercolors more. Before I started doing printmaking, I was working with watercolors and I have been even before NCA. I think that’s what I enjoy more because of the flow and all the colors.
Right, I feel like acrylic or oil would be just too hard and rigid.
Jawaria: Exactly, it just sort of stops you.
Right exactly. So would you say that going to art school itself kind of completely changed you in a way? I feel like college changes anybody, you’ll really find yourself there. But I feel like art school really makes you go into an even deeper layer of that change. So how would you describe that?
Jawaria: All my four years there, at NCA, were pretty good. I remember my mom used to tell me that the time I’m going to spend in college is going to be the best time for me, and it’s going to be your best teacher. And that was so true because I learnt so much in those years. I got to interact with a lot of different people, people coming from different cultures and different regions. And then luckily, I had the best teachers and they were people I only used to read about in books! And then all of a sudden all those people were around me and I was learning things from them, it was a very positive energy. It helped me a lot in growing. I also think the teachers matter a lot, if they support you and if they’re actually invested in you. I don’t think friends even matter as much as teachers. I mean don’t get me wrong, luckily I’ve got pretty great friends as well. At NCA, we have a small space, but everyone knows each other. It was a very happy time there. Everyone talks to other people so we learn a lot. Every single day is a new day for you but you’re learning new things every day.
I totally agree. Teachers are so important, they can totally shift your college and learning experience. Who would you say is one memorable teacher that taught you a lot?
Jawaria: So in college, one of the reasons I chose printmaking is because of two people. And one of them is my professor, Sir Saad Ahmad, who also owns Inkster Print Studio which is where I work. He was the major reason why I even chose printmaking as a major in first place back in my second year. And the other one was Ma’am Laila Rahman, the head of printmaking at NCA. Both of them were my printmaking teachers and both were so invested in my work. Normally teachers stop caring at one point and let their students do whatever they want with their work. But those two used to guide me and tell me what I should work further on or what looks good or bad. It was a very positive change for me because I used to think teachers don’t really care, they’re not gonna be that invested in me. But those two teachers definitely made a huge difference.
You’re right, teachers do stop caring at one point because they have like 50 other kids from different classes they need to look at so sometimes they’re like eh whatever. So it’s really cool you found two that were so invested in you and your work. Talking about inspirations, who else do you think, from the art world, is an inspiration for you and your art?
Jawaria: To be very honest, there’s no one that I looked at and went oh, wow, this is amazing or somebody I wanted to be like. I really love Frida Kahlo and her work. Because I loved one thing about her, that I actually do see somewhere in my work. It’s how she turned something so miserable into something so beautiful. She took the misery and turned it into something positive. As far as colors as inspiration, I think it’s Henri Matisse and Claude Monet. I started reading on the, I think three years ago. Sadly, in our history classes they don’t really care about teaching those things so I just thought i’d read up on it myself. From our region, I really love Chughtai’s work.
Everybody you mentioned as an inspiration, and your work go hand in hand. What about culture? You mentioned Japan earlier, what specifically about that culture has inspired your work?
Jawaria: It’s majorly their wood cuts and how intriguing they are. How they use colors and make something so simple into something so beautiful. It taught me that you don’t have to create something so complicated for it to look nice or eye catching. So Japanese woodcuts that was my major inspiration.
Right, and the country itself is so beautiful too!
How did you see your art change and evolve through the years?
Jawaria: So when I was doing my thesis, at that point, I was like, okay, I’ve given my best. This is my 100%. And I am satisfied. I also received my honors so I was like this is perfect, everything is good. After that, when I looked at my work, I realized there was something still missing. I told myself I’m not gonna go for something bigger or a different theme. I wanted to work with the same technique and try to resolve this thing. I asked myself why I am so interested in this theme, anyway? Yes there’s my major inspirations and books and movies. But there has to be another reason why I’m so interested in bugs, nature, foliage, fantasy and things like that. So at this point, I’m trying to find that out. Even if it takes another two, three, four or even five years, I will let it be like that and I will continue working on this. So I’m not thinking of going bigger. I’m not thinking of finding a way to make this very commercial. I just want to go with this one.
Right, I feel like that’s a very important mindset to have. Yes, you want to make money but you also want to be happy with your art. It’s exhausting to get stuck in the cycle of am I happy with my art and am I making enough money with my art.
Jawaria: So what I do is, I sit down with myself a lot and I ask myself questions. Like before my final project for my thesis, I asked myself the questions – Okay I want to make this, but why? Do I want to make money and be famous? Or do I want to be happy and satisfied? And I was like, yes, obviously, I want to be satisfied. Because I think if you continue working on something, you’ll eventually get it how you want it. If you give your 100% to something every single day, you will get what you’re looking for. If it’s big success, big money, whatever it is, you will get it. So I wanted to be happy and satisfied before anything else because art is like a religion towards me. So I’m like okay, I have to give my 100% towards this.
I completely understand what you’re saying. That is one of the questions that I tend to ask everybody, where do you draw that line of making art for pleasure or to sell. After you graduated, what was it like coming into a very saturated art industry? How do you tend to stay original? It’s easy for your mind to just get lost in everything that’s out there.
Jawaria: There is a lot of competition out there. For the opportunity part, you will get a lot of opportunities, but then for that you will have to give something to get something. Sadly, how things are in Pakistan in the art industry, is not something that I really appreciate. So I chose to just step back, create my artwork. And when it’s time, I will step in and look for opportunities. Maybe if I’m working on it, opportunities can come to me and that’s all right. But I’m not gonna go into looking for them myself. Not yet.
I love that you’re not rushing yourself. We just set expectations for ourselves that we want to meet them really fast but then get upset we can’t do so. So it’s wonderful that you are not jumping into looking for these. Another idea that came into my mind was installations. Your kind of artwork would be so cool to see in a digital installation or something.
Jawaria: For my thesis, I did a really huge installation. Everyone came up to it and told me they wanted to photograph it. People did inquire about it and were interested in purchasing it but of course they said it’s either out of their budget or too big for their home. But that never bothered me since I never planned to sell it in first place while I was making it. From a selling point of view, installations are not that good of an idea. But if I want to do it voluntarily, it is a good idea because people do enjoy it. There’s a lot happening in it, you will stand there and stare at it for a good three to four minutes at least. But yes I am actually very much interested in installations more than just prints on the wall.
Right, which are really cool too because of the details. It was so nice to talk to you, such an inspiration. I love that you have it figured out what you want from your art as of now and what you want from it later. Do you have any closing remarks or things you’d like to address?
Jawaria: Just that things always get better, honestly. When we’re in that situation, we’re like no, things are not gonna get better. When COVID started, we were all scared and we thought our lives were over. But now, even if you’ve managed to create one piece of art, or you came up with one good idea, that’s more than enough, I think. People need to stop killing themselves over these superficial things. They need to put themselves and their mental health first because if this is fine, then everything else would be perfectly fine. Make the kind of art that is going to make you happy, even if it is for selling.
I totally agree that is such a positive note to end on! Thank you for your time today, it was so nice talking to you.
Jawaria: Thank you! Bye.
Everyday after school, I had a routine to go and pick up flowers and collect bugs and all that. I used to mash the flowers and get pigment out of it. But back then I had no idea that was actually a thing.
A Fish Bowl | 48” x 25”
Dancing on my own | Linocut | 10” x 13.5”
This year I had so much free time and all the freedom in the world. So I was having so much fun just doing work and experimenting. I said to myself I can actually live this way for like two or three more years.
Spawn of system | Linocut | 15” x 10”
The thing about printmaking is that even when you make it, you’re clueless about how it’s gonna turn out at the end.
We are all in this together | Woodcut | 35” x 25”
From heaven’s garden | Aquatint | 40” x 30”
For heaven’s sake | Linocut | 20” x 30”
I think if you continue working on something, you’ll eventually get it how you want it.I think if you continue working on something, you’ll eventually get it how you want it.