Anila Quayyum Agha

This week in WoMA inspirations section we will introduce you to another artist from Pakistan: Anila Quayyum Agha. Compared to the paintings of Waqas Khan, we can see similarities in delicate techniques they use in creating their artworks. Their origins and cultures have a very high impact on their creative process and motives they are representing. However, while the paintings of Waqas Khan drag us into meditation, and away from everyday life, Anila Quayyum’s installations, paintings and drawings are underlining situations and issues in today’s cultural and global scenario. She is digging into global politics, cultural multiplicity, mass media and gender roles.

Anila Quayyum comes from Lahore, Pakistan. She has had her education in Fiber Arts at University of North Texas. Despite her “western” education, eastern and Islamic elements are nevertheless present in almost all her works, from drawings to paintings, as well as installations. They may not always be dominant; indeed, sometimes they are hidden behind other organic forms in her paintings. A peculiar aspect of her work is definitely the techniques she uses. She rarely makes use of only one single technique in transforming her inspirations, ideas and thoughts into art pieces. We could say that one of her signatures is mix media.

Anila Quayyum Agha - Antique Lace, 2017

Maybe her most influential works are her installations, which she began to create in 2010. One of the most recent pieces is the project Intersections, which consists of a wooden box placed in an encompassing empty space. The sides of the box are carved in arabesque motives that are taken from Islamic sacred spaces. Via the disposition of light inside the boxes, these motives are reflected on the walls of the room, ultimately changing viewers’ perception of the space. Playing with light and shadows, static and dynamic, purity and inner symmetry of the design, Anila Quayyum generates depth in space, and paths that lead people to fully experience the artwork. Entering the room, viewers become part of the artist’s work, in the same way as the walls are covered with the arabesque patterns, so do the viewers, who in the end camouflage themselves with the shadows. Not only is the viewer dragged into the work mentally and intellectually, but also physically.

The motives that have been carved in the box should resemble those from Alhambra. For Anila Quayyum, Alhambra is a symbolic place of coexistence of different cultures, discourses and traditions. Alhambra was built in the intersection between western and Islamic histories, cultures and arts. This building from the 9th century inspired her to turn away from Lahore, where she grew up in a social environment in which culture dictated the ways of behaviour, in particular the exclusion of women from spaces of community and creativity, such as Mosque. With this work, artist wanted to accent mutualism in our world, by exploring the dichotomy of inclusion and exclusion, private and public.

Pictures: Anila Quayyum Agha

Sofija Savić