Ghulam Hussain is a the city of Hyderabad, Sindh, a home to the world’s oldest civilization called Indus Valley Civilization, Pakistan. He is a trained miniaturist from National College of Arts Lahore, Pakistan, works with High and Low Craft Art to represent the beauty within stark contrasts of what is considered as high and low.
Hussain’s work is distinct due to its technique and simplicity, opening up a range of possibilities both for the artist and its viewers. Going back to his roots in Pakistan’s province of Sindh, Hussain is challenging the notion of the high craft by integrating forms of low-craft, such as weaving and brick building, with the miniature style of painting.
Ajrak and Sindhi Topi are the symbols of Sindhi’s culture and civilization for thousands of years, connected to the civilization of Mohen jo Daro built around 2500 BCE. Ajrak, basically, is a name given to unique block print shawls. Sindhi culture display special designs and pattern in these shawls,rali, charpai weaving and bedsheets which associate Hussain to his childhood memories. Inspired by children’s sensibilities and recollection, Hussain constructs his images like the pattern weaved through in paper on canvas. His work deals with the idea of folk art and the innocence of expression both combined and blended in a new manner.
His work has been set forth nationally as well as internationally. Devi Art Foundation Museum New Delhi, India; Fifth Beijing International Art Biennial in National Art Museum China, Award Grant Rockefeller Brothers Artist Residency New York, Award Grant The Artist Students League Artist Residency New York. Embassy of the Kingdom of Netherlands and Satrang Art Gallery Islamabad, Pakistan have been displayed his work thrivingly.
His visits to New York approached him towards the work of Piet Mondrian and he came up with his flourishing work of Woven Narratives Dialogue with Piet Mondrian in 2015. His work is based on geometric pattern and overlapping techniques through weaving gives a unique impression in form of Art. His work in 2017, Mind=Blown at Sanat Initiative Art Gallery confronts the Op Art with the Sindh Craft Arts was another stride towards the Art’s World.
How was it growing in the city of Hyderabad, Sindh a home to the world’s oldest civilization, Indus Valley Civilization?
Ghulam: My father migrated from a village of SINDH to the city of Hyderabad. I was born in Hyderabad (a small city of Pakistan). My father was a craftsman. He was an artisan. My family was related to art and craft. So, I grew up to look at them working with passion and proud to have skills they had. From childhood, I was curious about restless nature. Things hardly fascinate me and what fascinates me was always bizarre for others. Though the city was not developed and the opportunities were limited, my parents did not force me to do the things which I disliked. I wonder here and there to see the people and places and questioned myself why they are living like this. When I found the answer, I become happy and feel proud to raise in this amazing city.
How long have you been creating art? Was there a defining moment that you realized a creative life was the path for you?
Ghulam: For almost 25 years, I have been creating art. When my first painting was sold in 2004, I realized that I can choose my passion which is no doubt an art as my profession.
How would you describe your artwork?
Ghulam: My artwork describes my love, my passion, my spiritual connection with my family roots. My artwork is about history, geography, and the culture of a region which is connected with the different parts of the world.
Can you remember an instance when you first knew you were a creative person? What were you doing?
Ghulam: Yes, there is an interesting story. I am doing art from childhood and got admission in Fine art department of National College of Arts, Lahore, Pakistan, where I had chosen miniature for my specialization. But still curious about my art skills. The last year of my college was challenging because we had to submit our thesis. I was wondering what is unique in my art. I took the technique of weaving and chosen the different posters to weave. It was difficult to convince my teachers to prepare a thesis on the subject and took permission to display it. Finally, they agreed and I displayed my thesis in my final year (2009). Surprisingly, no one had come to ask for my thesis for the whole week. In the last day of the thesis display, Muhammad Ali Hemani (an art collector) had come to visit my thesis and made me realized that I am a very creative person. I should continue this work. He asked to buy all my work. I was shocked as well as happy. That was the most precious moment in my life. Then one of m mentor Madam Salima Hashmi selected my artworks for the Davi Art foundation in 2011. I got Rockefeller brother residency in New York in 2013, and I also got (The Artist Students League), Art Residency in New York 2016. Instances happened in my life and made me realized that I am a creative person and I just need to continue it.
How does your creativity manifest?
Ghulam: I am a learner, and I learn in every step of life. When people come to see my art and perceived it in their own way and enjoy it and like it, I feel good and satisfied.
What are you inspired by? Where do you go for inspiration? Color, geographic regions, art movements, and so on?
Ghulam: The first inspiration I got from my family. My father who was an excellent craftsman, my brother Mohammad Rafique Soomro who is an outstanding painter, art teacher and my mentor. I am inspired by the art and craft of Sindh, the old civilization of Indus valley and I always find the connection of the old and modern art forms (Low craft and High art). Like, I am also inspired by Piet Mondrian’s artwork, Victor Vasarely’s artwork, Bridget Riley’s artwork. I visited New York in 2013 where I come across with the work of Piet Mondrian and this strong inspiration materialized into a series of work and an exhibition titled “Woven Narratives, A dialogue with Piet Mondrian” in 2015, New York. Now, I visit different countries for my inspiration and knowledge.
How important do you think it is for creatives to develop their knowledge of visual culture?
Ghulam: When you raise somewhere, you raise with some norms, ethics, culture and traditions. So, we all develop some kind of knowledge about the culture. But for creatives, developing the knowledge of visual culture is different and important too. Creatives use their critical thinking to explore new ways to define culture, art and history. It is important for them to be knowledgeable and explorer for becoming a creator. It is also important what’s new you are giving to the world and how you are developing the knowledge to save history for the coming world? How you want to be perceived by the coming generations. It all happens just because of the visual culture knowledge.
What is your most recent piece of art that you have enjoyed working on the most?
Ghulam: I enjoy every work of mine because I always tried to give my best and the ideas which I explore always give me some kind of learning to improve myself as human being and my work of course. Yes, I felt differently when I started to weave 5 x 5 inches canvas in year 2018 and I gave it the title “Place of spirituality.” I enjoyed to weave the composition and felt the happiness in myself and I drift through it during its making.
What’s coming up for you? What are you working on?
Ghulam: As we know that the situation has been changed for everyone and the opportunities become less but as an artist, I must keep going on with my work and still I am getting new opportunities from different countries to display my work. I have worked for the charity in collaboration with “The Citizen Foundation” and other NGOs. I am also working on Covid-19 and its impact on the world’s economy, health, fatality and the expected changes in coming time.
What is your personal motto or a quote that you like or live by?
Ghulam: Life should not be aimless. Take challenges and give your full strength and efforts to accomplish it.
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