Working in a variety of media including woodblock carving, video, and water-based silkscreen prints – Pakistani artist Soraya Sikander paints Dubai skyscrapers, Karachi seaside, Punjab landscape, English countryside or her extensive global escapades with equal panache
[dropcap]S[/dropcap]he pursues themes based on ‘Life as we know it: Cities, activity, flowers in a vase beside a window, urban-scapes and objects. Soraya Sikander, born to an Indian father and Pakistani mother is a painter and sculptor. She has studied fine arts for over 10 years and has held over 14 exhibitions internationally. London, Lahore, Karachi and Dubai have been inspiring cities to her which have all reflected in her work. All her solo shows are sold out completely and the critical and commercial response to her work has been phenomenal. But the artist prefers being grounded.
“It’s not important to make money initially because you don’t know how much you’ll make. You might even lose money because of certain expenses, such as framing your paintings and shipping them. Just concentrate on putting your work out there and once you make your name, money will follow,” says the artist who graduated from the Beaconhouse National University (BNU) Lahore and has a diploma certificate programme at the Slade School of Fine Art, University College of London.
Her paintings have a very earthy feel to it. There are lots of flowers, blues, greens and shades of brown in all her works. “I enjoy various drawings, paintings and sculptures. It’s not about the artist, but the work. I can see something by an unknown painter and get engrossed by it to the point where the image is in front of my eyes even when I am away from it,” says the TEDx speaker.
“On location I paint a landscape that interests me. I set up my easel, establish a point of reference, position my canvas and work with oil paints in palette knife. That is my outdoors style,” says the artist on her mode of work. “In my studio, I work in pencil or charcoal on paper and look for dramatic lighting that creates sharp contrasts. I am interested in shadows and the shapes they create over reflected surfaces.”
She determines her subject by drawing a map of it. “For instance, if it’s a portrait, the initial first weeks, I work by making straight angular and cross lines, then refine them. It’s quite similar to sculpting where you come closer to the 3-dimensionality of the object. I cannot emphasize the need to draw before starting out any kind of visual work, enough,” she says.
Though she is a young artist her practice has changed over time. She has shifted from more interpretative painterly work to classical atelier realistic 19th century based drawing style. “I think at this stage I am more interested in representational work. So my subject matter may expand to include larger, more complex scenes filled with activity and loaded in gesture,” she adds.
Besides her family, home, playing in the garden is a constant recurring childhood memory which features in her work. “I once stepped on a snake during one of my outdoor painting sessions! Oh and once I fell into deep water and nearly drowned! Besides this, nothing is too scary,” she smiles.
With all that extensive travel across continents, there have been moments that she has captured forever on canvas. “When I am driving down a street, at the beach, or even out with some friends on a yacht and I see light reflected on water or a dramatic skyline, I instantly feel like sketching it. I have done this so many times I can’t keep track… Overload of instances I think!” she recalls.
Speaking about the art scene in Pakistan, Soraya is very hopeful but feels art and artists could do much better. “Earlier there was a bit of a lull in Pakistan but art is finding its footing now. We have a growing collectors’ market but we definitely need more museums. We only have a handful and those are not enough for the amount of artists Pakistan is producing. The government also needs to start putting money into art, like the United Kingdom does.”
She strongly feels that artists should engage with their community and involve younger members of society. “It is a full time job and can be developed into a mature career. Art has a way of bringing people together and stimulating them. A strong painting has the ability to stop time. Art, in the long run, shapes and influences society for the better, making a more responsive, more attuned public,” says the hopeful Pakistani.