Spotlight: Ammad Tahir

Painter and artist extraordinaire Ammad Tahir sits down with TMS Creative Director Moeed Tariq, to discuss what fuels him as an artist.

Ammad Tahir is an artist and teacher of Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture. His solo exhibition Leave Me to Burn was shown at Goethe-Institut Gallery which included paintings, drawings and a video projection. His work has also been showcased along with several artists as part of a group show Bits and Pieces at KSA Gallery, “Dear Diary” at Poppy Seed Gallery and Faculty Art 5 at IVS Gallery, covering topics such as the increasing prevalence of terrorism and personal narratives. He has won Zahoor-ul-Akhlaq Drawing Portfolio Award, VM Art Scholarship and Award of Excellence by Pakistan Women’s Foundation.

Have you always known you wanted to be a painter?

Initially, I wanted to be an environmentalist and work for WWF (World Wildlife Foundation) but after my O Levels I realized that I wanted to work in design, particularly fashion. So for my A- Levels I chose art and design against my parents’ wishes and from that point onwards, there was no turning back.

Why choose Indus?

I wanted to go to NCA because they have the best Fine Art Department. (But) I ended up going to IVS since I missed out on NCA’s admission test. In the long run, this actually worked well for me because I wouldn’t have been able to explore the kind of themes and ideas (that I was able to at IVS), in the more traditional NCA environment.

How has your family been about your decision to pursue art?

My family was taken aback with my decision. But my mother was supportive because she had always seen my creative side. I remember her telling me that I could do whatever I wanted as long as I could be financially stable. So I got a scholarship to study at Indus and worked really hard for the first two years.

Where do you draw your inspiration from?

I think ‘inspirations’ are old fashioned. Contemporary art is more issue-based and my work is all about sexuality and gender politics. So my muse is often lurking in newspapers or on news channels. I keep track of developments in women’s rights and sexual minorities, like the transgender community. I was quite pleased when the eunuchs won a cricket match in Karachi which was played against straight men in 2009.

Are there any painters in particular that you greatly admire?

I love the works of Jenny Saville, Lucian Freud and Kiki Smith. Out of the Pakistani artists I really enjoy Naiza Khan’s drawings, Faiza Butt’s pointillism and Asim Butt’s paintings.

What do you have to say about the local art scene in Pakistan?

I think the local art scene is developing at a very fast pace with galleries opening up every now and then. Also it is interesting to see museums make the effort to showcase contemporary art like Mohatta Palace’s recent show called The Rising Tide. Even the National Art Gallery is doing great in terms of featuring young and famous artists, alike.

How would you describe your work in your own words?

I have a parallel body of work; one which comprises the cityscapes representing Karachi’s urbanized, chaotic life, and the other which is a reflection of me as a person and those who are like me. It is interesting to see the two come together because then it becomes this strange hybrid creature in a fantastical space.