Q: Much of your art fuses Islamic, Christian, Jewish, and Hindu traditions – what inspired you to use themes of religion and tolerance in your work? Is there a method or a purpose behind the kind of texts you use in a specific piece?
I paint the philosophy I meditate upon. I use texts from Quran, [Bhagavid] Gita, Tora and others to represent the universality of their ideas. Religious intolerance arises from our ignorance about each others faith. My art simply says- look into the mirror of your own being. Know yourself to realize that your battles are unnecessary. When every religion speaks the same truth and everything ends in the same reality, all of this is just a tamasha (spectacle). Life is sacred as it is an opportunity to touch the light of our existence. It is about universal truth. My purpose is to engage the viewer and the engagement is achieved by the use of the texts. Once my painting is placed on someone’s wall, everyone asks the meaning of the verse. They can be directed to the translation that accompanies the painting. It may spark a debate or a conversation or perhaps just appreciation.
Q: Have you faced any kind of religious opposition to your work?
Frankly, I am not bothered how the viewer sees my paintings, however I take extreme care to ensure that the sanctity of each religion is adhered to.
Q: What is your opinion on the current state of Pakistan’s art industry? How can it be bolstered/improved?
Pakistani Art should be the next big thing I hope. The critical ingredient to catapult Pakistani artists to the world’s stage is good marketing.
Q: The arts medium – theater, dance, film, and art – can often be used as a commentary on society. In Pakistan in particular, recent films have been a commentary on politics or current affairs. Do you feel like your work and message have a place within the current debates raging in Pakistan?
Absolutely. The message of my art dispels misconceptions which are based on heresy rather than on knowledge. In this way, an attempt is made to create harmony and peaceful co existence. The influence of living in London is that it teaches the beauty of tolerance. The society allows respectful co existence of all cultures. The English and the French have fought many battles, similarly with the Germans and yet today they are part of the European union sharing common currencies and common laws. Should the subcontinent learn from this maturity? If the politicians fail to display this maturity, should they be nudged into this direction by a mere artist? We live in hope.
Q: The observation of art is considered a subjective experience, but is there one particular message or lesson you hope your audience takes away from your work?