pinkyaliya is an incredibly talented artist with an amazing dedication to the Ahlulbayt(as). I decided to interview her because I wanted to get into her head a little bit. Her art is fascinating and each new piece she creates has an incredible vision and story. She is also a very good friend of mine, a support, inspiration, and cheerleader in all aspects of my life. Now without further ado...
Let's start off at the very beginning, what is your first memory of creating a piece of art you were proud of? In other words, when did you first recognize yourself as an artist?
I still have a few drawings I created while I was very young - ones that I was very proud of. As a child, I would spend a lot of time drawing characters from picture books or animations like Jack and the Beanstalk, The Powerpuff Girls, Winnie the Pooh, and Sailor Moon. I was most proud when I successfully copied the illustration of Jack's mother.
We all go through stages and phases with our art in terms of style and technique--what stage would you say you are in now? Where do you think you are headed?
I'm in the experimental stage and still finding what media I like. I'm leaning away from 2-D arts to 3-D and 4-D. So, away from traditional fine arts and into installation/public art and moving image. I definitely want to continue with installation and public art. Art can be something the public immerses itself into however I'm interested in how art can immerse itself into the public. With installation, I am able to change physical space so that the space itself becomes art.
Also speaking about style, do you have any specific artists that you are influenced by?
I am influenced by a lot of contemporary Toronto video artists, mainly because I am most exposed to them in school. I am also very interested in Modernist architecture, especially works by Rem Koolhaas and Le Corbusier. Moreover, I enjoy learning from minimalist artists such as Donald Judd and Sol LeWitt.
That is true, although I don't publicize everything and many of my works aren't so evidently inspired by the AhlulBayt (namely the ones I do for assignments).
It was in Najaf of 2008 that I saw a stack of paintings in a hotel. This inspired me to create works of art with the intention of pleasing the AhlulBayt. In so, I've developed a habit of writing a letter addressed to a member of the Ahlul Bayt, gifting the work to them, at the back of my canvas. I find that the only ways to motivate myself to continue in art is to seldom keep anything for myself and to gift them to others.
My favourite piece is a performance work I did in my first year of university. It challenged what I thought art was (which was drawing and painting). My piece dealt with the media's effects on me as a Muslim female. For this assignment, I asked all the men in my class to leave (including my professor... Which made it very difficult to mark!) It was then when I realized how powerful art is.
From my traditional and explicitly Islamic artworks, my favourite is "Building Ihsan" because it successfully shows my triumph over the negative feelings of isolation and difficulty that I had expressed in the first two works of my Ihsan series.
What does it look like when you are in the midst of working on a piece? As in, where do you do your art? Is your working space messy or organized? Are you listening to something? Etc.
I'm usually in the studio at school so I don't have control of the space, only the time. I prefer working in quiet but if my classmates are playing music I will drain it out with Islamic-related audio. At home, I move around the house but usually find myself in the studio I've created for myself in the spare room. I like to keep it organized. However, there's usually a crazy amount of food around!
Have you had any formal training in art? Or are you completely self-taught?
Before entering into an arts program in university, I had taken general art courses in secondary school. I still have more of a general training in university but more guidance and exposure to contemporary art and techniques. I believe the most important thing one can do during their exploration in the arts is to surround oneself with many different types of artists - we learn from each other.
You study city planning at your university (correct me if I'm wrong)-- what impacts does this have on your personal artwork (if any)?
I started off with city planning, art, and environmental science in my first year. It was a double major and minor kind of thing. I wanted to somehow merge all these interests of mine into one program and so I transferred into architecture. I'm currently doing a major in architecture and a specialist in art. These two programs are interdisciplinary - I'm exposed to design, software engineering, environmental science, urban design and urban planning, public policy, astronomy, philosophy, theory... Anything and everything! I love it because I get to orient myself. From city planning, I leaned towards urban design and through this I was exposed to public art. Urban design, which is a form of architecture, is about urban space. As mentioned earlier, I am interested in transforming space into art, especially through technology. I've done many public artworks and the idea of the "city" is a returning topic in my works. I like to think I am an "artchitecht" in training.
In your opinion, what place does art have in Islam? What should be its role?
Art itself serves many roles - it can serve a cultural role, an educational, a commercial etc. Islam is a way of life and in so art has many places in Islam. In my opinion, one of the most prominent roles art plays is to make people think and discuss. I hope to see art challenge the Islam of today; Islam is not in its purest form today and I feel art can inspire Muslims to reflect on what true Islam may be.
And finally, what is your favorite color... just because I want to know I'm going to guess... blue!
I want to say pink! If I'm painting it's phthalo blue and in terms of clothes, it's mustard yellow.