Multi-layered, multi-lensed and multi-faceted

By News Desk
June 24, 2024
Visitors examine art pieces on the walls during an exhibition Titled ‘Texture of Time’ by Dr Iram Zia Raja organised by Canvas Gallery, image released on June 11, 2024. — X/CanvasGallery

The Canvas Gallery has been a host to an art exhibition featuring works by Dr Iram Zia Raja this month. Titled ‘Texture of Time’, the show will come to a close on Monday (today).


The catalogue released by the gallery for this exhibition quotes the artist as saying that her body of work that people have been viewing, have viewed or would view has not been created for that viewing because, she says, she chooses not to work like that.

She says she looks at her work as an accumulation of lifelong conversations with herself. “Daily life packed with mundane and interesting bits alike,” she adds. She explains them as entangling threads of endless thoughts, making breakfast with a thousand things on her mind for the 14 or so hours ahead.

According to her, those thoughts include giving food to the birds, watering the plants on her little terrace, reading Urdu literature on a daily basis, picking fruit from her lemon trees and trying to pickle them in October when the sunlight is still strong.

She also lists spring cleaning of her home and her soul at the same time, and putting her feet in a tub of hot water with pink Himalayan salt at the end of a long day. Making vegetarian goodies for the one daughter who is still at home, and awaiting wedding season, when she can put her ghararas, saaris, jhoomars and teekas to good use, are also among her thoughts.

“The work that I manage to create is a receiver of all of the above. Life flows unabashedly into art and vice versa. In my mind I have created countless works, all fully resolved, and then they never see the light of the day. They stay there,” she says.

“Not aborted but kind of still births. The realisation that my mind is almost a graveyard of ideas or works does bother me. I also realise that someday, the mind is going to fail me, this body is going to fail me,” she adds.

“Then, in full realisation of this eternity, I work. I work to bring some of these ideas into materiality. While in the process, the already resolved ideas go through a metamorphosis of sorts. The final form sometimes shocks me.”

She says her work is many things. “It’s a query and it’s a response. It’s a vessel. It’s an outcome too. It’s experiential. It’s DNA too. It’s a text, and the context; it’s an image, and a counter-image. It’s multi-layered, multi-lensed and multi-faceted.”

She remarks that if all of this finds an audience at some point, she feels she is in luck. “It is only then that the work communicates and becomes alive.” Dr Iram is the dean and professor of design at Lahore’s National College of Arts. She has worked extensively on the subject of art education in South Asia, especially Lahore, and has presented her research at various seminars and conferences.

Her doctoral thesis, titled ‘From Craft to Art and Design: Changing Patterns of Art Education (Art Education: From the Mayo School of Art to the National College of Arts)’, has contributed to seminal research on the topic of post-colonial art and design education in Pakistan.

As a practitioner of design in textiles and metals, she has had a number of solo exhibitions at leading art galleries, both in and outside Pakistan.

Her work deals with the presence of tradition and its contemporary possibilities. She investigates motifs, patterns and symbols from the “decorative” arts of the past, and contextualises and reinterprets them with a contemporary sensibility. Her work is distinct for the innovative use of geometry, the unusual chromatic compositions, and the emphasis on detail that has been translated across several mediums.