How can I fade when you are looking at me? (artists/friends) Farida Batool and Naira Mushtaq


Yesterday was a good day. The past two years and losing dad has changed everything. This post is for two people who stood with me through everything . While I have my morning tea and prepare to reach for an invigilation at 9 : 30 am this post is a valuable thought and it should happen before I let go of it. It is dedicated to two exceptional women, friends and artists : Farida Batool and Naira Mushtaq.

You can google them if you don’t know them to get a better idea of their practice as I’ll only talk about two strings which remain with me… from yesterday.

Yesterday at her Ted talk ( bold and brilliant Ted Women) at the British council, Lahore, Farida also talked about a portion of her 70 feet long lenticular printed walk through the city which has an unparalleled and sensitivite significance to her. For me it was a palimpsest nirvana that she talked about. A banned militant organization flag graffiti was over taken by the poster of a male sexuality clinic, a street hawker has his cart in front of this societal dilemma – of – wall and the flames of his cookery casually flirt through the air.. and blacken the posters.

Kahani ek sheher ki / the story of a city

One of Naira’s new paintings in her open studio yesterday, took me back to Henry Peach Robinson’s masterpiece titled fading away, from1858.

The speaker after Farida, a Neuro surgeon, Dr Aneela Darbar, centered her dialogue on the ‘one’ most difficult question, that her patients ask her “Doctor, how long do I have? ” the silence after this answer lives in the faceless faces or weightless bodies in Naira’s painting :

I was reading one of artist Christian Boltanski’s interviews recently and he mentioned  how the faces he uses in his work are hardly ever of people he knows, which proves that familiarity can never be an excuse between ’empathy and indifference’. I overheard Naira telling one of the visitors that the reference photographs she uses for her work are whisked from unknown sources. I remember once she found a small family album claded with photographs of a family from the west while digging into ‘curious – materiality’ in the ‘Landa Bazar’ (local thrift market, rejected, used, imported products, clothes etc from the first world)

Farida turns the city into her family member. Her practice holds herself, her child, her own memory for someone else, the city or someone else, for herself. I’ve been submerged in the use of archive, memory or materiality since the beggining of art practice myself  – this erasure or magnifying of memory, war between textures like the story of the war between the sun and the wind as to who will succeed in taking of that man’s cloak? Or how long does it take what to fade away? Does it ever fade away? Do we ever fade away? Does the memory of a lost loved one ever fade away or in artist Robert Montgomery’s words.. Do the people we love.. Live in us like ghosts? What about places and things, do they live in us too?

This post is probably about finding value in the moment when all seems to fade away..
It can be the air that conquered the posters on Farida’s wall or the silence between Naira’s mourners …

And this new value.. never let’s it fade..

Another painting by Naira