In Print: Sydney to Lahore

In Print: Sydney to Lahore

by Sehr Jalil Raja

“Do you know what a cicada is? Do you have them here? Ok”… he says in response to my blank face, pointing towards his shirt with an insect form logo that has large eyes and explains the name of the Cicada press, referring to how the cicadas are known for making a lot of noise, a rhythmic sound. Michael Kempson, visual artist and academic, is verily true to that spirit: collisions make noise like the exhibition titled ‘Sydney-Lahore: Prints from the collection of Cicada press and Saeed Akhtar Studio’, curated by Imran Ahmad and Usman Saeed. The curatorial brief mentions that “the idea of this show originated when printmaking graduates from the National College of Arts, Lahore, Fatima Saeed and Imran Ahmad enrolled in the Masters Program at UNSW College of Art & Design in Australia. With Michael Kempson, Senior Lecturer, Convenor of Printmaking Studies and Director of Cicada Press at UNSW Art & Design as their teacher, they invited Saeed Akhtar and Usman Saeed for Cicada Press Residency in July, 2013”.

The exhibition came just at the right time to break the silence in the Pakistani printmaking world, right before the opening of the 1st International Print Biennale Karachi 2014 at VM Gallery. The show comprises selections of both collections along with loans from a few other individuals.

A few minutes of intent listening to the exuberance and philosophy behind the collaboration are a jet ride through continents and eons. And particularly for me the most fascinating part is the ‘meaning’ of being an artist in the world now.

Reg Mombassa, a recognized Mambo designer, Australia’s most successful commercial artist and the mind behind the inflatable kangaroos at the 2000 Olympics’ closing ceremony and his character ‘Australian Jesus’ – founding member of ARIA Award-winning band Mental As Anything has his prints displayed at this show. The works are a new language, tongue-in-cheek but layered,

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Studio Visit: Waseem Ahmed

Studio Visit: Waseem Ahmed

by Sehr Jalil RajaAs I stand outside a centrally located home in Johar Town, which acquires a personal aura and truth of material, there is a sense that I am already at home. The gate with raw wooden planks and brick elevation gives a silent comfortable welcome. I’m greeted by the artist and directed to the studio… upon entering the experience reaffirms itself. It is a square room with a large window, a large miniature desk-workspace with ceiling lights right in the corner-centre, a single comfortable sofa chair across it. His son’s toys are lying on the floor, while a traditional carved corner wooden shelf sets the mood – a sweet fusion – where on the other extended corner a large casual bookshelf is stacked with books, catalogues and a soft board opposite it with group pictures of shows and their invites.

Like Waseem Ahmed’s current stance, the conversation waves boundlessly where we contemplate, reject, accept and wonder over the contradictions and colors of society and art practice. Ahmed shares how during the Green Island International Human Rights Artist’s Workshop, Taiwan, in 2007, certain experiences were unforgettable; for instance, when during their presentations a French artist decided to address the audience in French and not in English although she could speak in English. It caused great dismay and difficulty because it had to be interpreted in English for everyone else. To respond the other artists did the same…they all presented in their first languages and refrained from talking in English. This example was crucial in pondering over how as people we could make things easier or more difficult for each other. “We were three artists from the subcontinent during that time i.e., from Nepal, Bangladesh and Pakistan and everyone asked us if we were from the same country; we appeared as one because we chose to speak the same language with each other.”

Contemporary miniature in the world now is getting undivided attention. I question Ahmed about its position as an art…it’s confrontational and powerful, unsettling connect with tradition/region and for once, being a contemporary painter myself…

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In 1932 sculptor Janet De Coux apprenticed with James Earle Fraser. In a letter from Fraser to his former assistant, he comments on her studio “Seeing your studio and its grand light and very good proportions makes me feel like building one like it here. I particularly like the fact that you had only a few things in it. You really can see and walk around each piece.

Your light seems to me perfect…”           

Coming back from Nadia Khawaja’s  studio I just had to find the above excerpt that I’d read long ago in ‘Artists In Their Studios – by Kirwin with Lord’,  with a picture of Janet’s studio,  as a vague memory of it had suddenly become vivid to my senses and prevailed  all along the visit.. 

Seated facing the artist on her desk under almost a rectangular-piece from the sky i.e. the large window interestingly placed in the right corner she shares the importance of the perfect light and how fervently she occupied this space when they moved here.

I’ve walked past and we’ve laughed over the lazy cat in its enviable slumber on the bedroom; bed on our right and before that the large open lounge speaks about sophisticated comfort and strong minimal aesthetic choices – a selection of engaging art/photography – large and small – adorns the walls.  This upper portion home in Cavalry Ground is all silence and light in this summer afternoon. ..

Everything looks in order in this studio, the few things; a work table /chair with stationery and a few books, two large rectangular works placed on opposite walls, a quote by Helen Keller ….


continued via link




STUDIO VISIT; RISHAM SYED. BY; Sehr Jalil Raja. Art Now Pakistan.

STUDIO VISIT; RISHAM SYED. BY; Sehr Jalil Raja. Art Now Pakistan.

I’‘m led through the maze-like route to the annex-studio (at the back of the house) where on the way back I am always taking the wrong turns and having to be guided by my host (the artist). Risham Syed’s corner residence in Model Town is surrounded by dense greenery. The height of the trees gives away the age of the residence. Syed has just returned from a parent-teacher meeting of her son Abdullah, fourteen, and daughter Mohrele, nine. Upon entering there is a scent of history in the objects and the space. I’m noticing the books piled up on tables and previous structures of work (an extra wall, a Victorian mantelpiece) when Syed explains how this is only a makeshift phase of her studio due to a termite attack and wall dampness; management /restoration is painstaking when it comes to older constructions.



A conversation with Bani Abidi. ArtNOWPakistan

A conversation with Bani Abidi. ArtNOWPakistan

A conversation with artist Bani Abidi


Sehr Jalil Raja