Female artists converting dreams into reality
Adeela Suleman, Director and Founding member of Vasl Artists' Association, shares her experience of being a female artist and creating majestic sculptures out of simple ideas
In the 1970s, one would expect development and growth in educational levels in a number of countries. However, in Pakistan, it somehow wasn't the same. Adeela Suleman, a visual artist, Head of Department of Fine Art in the Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture, and Director and Founding Member of Vasl Artists' Association witnessed events that shadowed her teenage years.
With so much happening around the time, one would seldom think of a growing visual artist beneath the bushes. However, Adeela paved a successful path for herself, starting from the basics - art and craft classes.
"My mother sent me to the art and craft classes at a very early age. I initially thought I wanted to be a textile designer. It was only at the university level that I realised that I wanted to do my second degree in Arts. I joined the arts college after doing my masters. My teacher David Alesworth at the art school I went to, gave me an insight into the world of art," said Adeela.
In the artist's household, making objects is a hereditary custom. From stitching to embroidery to cooking, Adeela mastered a whole set of skills from her grandmother. "My great grandfather use to fashion objects in wood through carving. He used to sell them in the Kumbmela in India. I think making objects is part of my genes."
"For me, art and life cannot be separated. They both impact each other. All my life experiences somehow or the other become part of my art language, and whatever that I learn from the art has directly impacted my life," she said.
Adeela mainly works with sculptures, and strongly believes that they make her feel existent. She said: "Sculpture exists in space like you and me. One can have a one-to-one dialogue with the form. Form is the outer surface of an object. It is what people see and interact with. As Louis Sullivan said, 'form follows function', for me, the function in the art is the idea, context, thought and intention with which the form is created."
She continued to speak of how a form may draw upon existing natural and man-made forms or maybe an art of pure form.
In terms of challenges and difficulties, Adeela has faced a great many but does not allow them to determine her abilities and destroy her passion for art. According to her, it is not about the "bumps" in life that you experience, but how you perceive them in your day to day routine.
She said, "I took them as great learning experiences. They gave me an insight into the art world which no one could have taught me. It's challenging, tough, exhausting and exciting - all at the same time. I am humbled about what I have achieved, but I am also excited at the possibilities which need to be explored."
Being a female artist, Adeela has faced a number of experiences, those which directly reflect on her being a woman. Although she does not particularly talk about gender issues, her works speak for her. "My upbringing, my negotiations with the city all reflect on the fact that I am who I am.
I don't particularly talk about gender issues, but they automatically come into the work, for instance, my motorcycle project - 'Salma Sitara and sisters motorcycle workshop'- dealt with the issues of class and gender. I was questioning the gender issues by looking outside of my personal space and exploring the public sphere," she said.
What is most positive of artistic creations in Pakistan is that a majority of women run the art world in the country; art galleries and organisations are run by women.
"Almost all main professional galleries are run by women, art organisations are run by women, and biennales are headed by women. As for the students and fresh graduates, yes, there are more women than men. The imbalance is because of the understanding of art as a profession. But surprisingly the ratio has improved at the university I teach in. I don't know if it is just a coincidence or maybe the other gender has realised that one can make a living out of the art as well," she concluded.