About Tête à tête

Tête a tête is a dialogue between two young female artists who share similar cultural and societal points of reference.

 And while gender plays no role in the capacity to create a compelling painting, today, a critical mass of female painters are embracing figuration, diversifying it, and pushing the conversation around it forward.

The current landscape of contemporary figurative painting is particularly strong, not only due to the commercial market for it but perhaps more so the way that artists are portraying people in response to salient topics and issues of the 21st century—from race, gender, and war, to privacy, social media, and love. 
These particular works are more about the boundaries both the artists are pushing and how they perceive their surroundings which are so deeply rooted in religious and social beliefs. 
It’s about making a bold statement and being heard. About breaking away. One step at a time. 
It is all headed into the same direction. A much needed direction that many have been opted for and many will take in the coming future as well. A dialogue that shall continue.. 





Q&A

Q.

Your work has always been figurative in nature. How did your fascination towards the human body develop and evolve into what your practice is today?

A.

FAKHRA ASIF: My work is figurative, as I am fascinated with the body. Being at the National College of Arts, my practice evolved with time. Before this, I was focusing on the hands, but NCA provided that bubble where I could start exploring my potential and interests towards the human body. I especially took that liberty for this show as it is happening at an international level, so I produced this specific body of work. Also by working with the figure, I can overcome my fear towards the nude which stems from my religious and cultural background and boundaries. I push myself to work to break those boundaries which were created inside of my head, and Muhammad Zeeshan helped me to overcome my fear towards nudes as he also works with the same subject.

ERUM AKHTAR: I like to consider myself an observer because I tend to notice all the minute details in my surroundings and then question my concerns about them. I started experimenting with the expressiveness through forms in the human body early on during my thesis back when I was completing my Bachelor’s degree. Initially, I was just exploring what I enjoyed painting more and had no idea that the human skin and texture would turn out to be an something that continued in my practice. However, I went along with the process and to this day, I still enjoy painting human skin and its numerous details which are evidently shown in my work.

Q.

As a young female artist living in Pakistan, what are the challenges you face in terms of your artistic expression? How does it affect the outcome ?

A.

FAKHRA ASIF: As a young female artist working with nudes, I had issues in painting and finding models. For years I wanted to attempt this work, but things were not happening and I was also afraid of social pressure because of which we don’t talk about sexual connotations, or our sexual desires which is a taboo over here. I believe these things happen naturally and I even got a good response from my last show. People appreciated my approach; the way I painted, but it did not sell because the images clearly talked about relationships and touch. These kinds of things do make me feel low, as there are very few buyers of these kinds of images and I am relying on them.

ERUM AKHTAR: To be honest, it can be a pretty challenging thing just to create what you feel being a woman in a society where religious extremism is on the rise. I, personally, have received a lot of criticism and bizarre comments about my expression through the work I produce and how people can find some of the visuals immoral due to the rigid constructs of the society we live in. Fortunately, any destructive criticism of that sort hasn’t affected my work.

Q.

Tête à tête is a dialogue between you and another artist. How do you see this dialogue? What’s the wider narrative that you derive from this ensemble?

A.

FAKHRA ASIF: I think it’s an amazing show where two female artists work and produce images and talk about women’s bodies, pushing their own boundaries, and challenging society. As a wider narrative, I feel that women over here in Pakistan are rebellious and break taboos about the body. I see this as potentially creating a huge impact on the audience of a third world country. These kinds of images are not expected from us, and I feel it is a moment of pride for both the artists, as well as the curator, who is working independently and representing and portraying a better image of Pakistani artists.

ERUM AKHTAR: I consider myself lucky enough to be working around and collaborating with so many talented people and has certainly had a productive influence on my work. Tête à tête is a one of a kind initiative that brings together two versatile figurative artists whose style and narrative are so interestingly different and yet their work collaborates so beautifully together. It surely is a visual treat to its audience.

Q.

This body of work was produced during the worldwide pandemic. Has that had any effect on the work? If yes, how so?

A.

FAKHRA ASIF: This body of work was produced during the pandemic but it affects me in a good way. I spent more time in the studio reading and researching, and then came up with this idea of work, but somehow it was depressing as well because I am a social animal. I take my inspiration from my surroundings and social life. I love to interact, which counts as a process of my work; it’s how I get to know people and potentially make them my models. I can’t paint unknown or unfamiliar people, as connecting with people and knowing them is a part of my process. So mostly I paint those who are very close to me, or those who I get to know after spending a certain amount of time with.

ERUM AKHTAR: This was a challenging time for everyone especially for the people who are more emotionally charged as compared to others. Artists usually tend to be more sensitive about their surroundings. Fortunately, this time period also gave us a sense of realisation about everything and made us rethink our concerns. It could be thought of as a time to stop what we were doing and reimagine our approach. No doubt, it got gloomy every now and then but it also gave me more personal space which is necessary for me to work.

Q.

Where do you see yourself in the next 10 years?

A.

FAKHRA ASIF: In the coming ten years I see myself working in better surroundings and am hoping to work internationally more. I am planning to take part in the Royal Portrait Society and on doing projects world-wide ; taking part in biennales and doing residencies. I also want to do something for those who never get a chance to study. I want to teach them what I have learned in various institutes, so I want to become that institute or want to help those kids get enrolled. I want to help them to dream big, just as I did, to do things on larger canvases, scopes and scales.

ERUM AKHTAR: I’m very passionate about my work. In 10 years, I hope to have advanced in my field as much as possible. Also, I would be looking forward to maximising my options and starting new small businesses as well. However, I really hope to be well on my way to keep polishing my skills and expose myself to new genres in art. I have always prioritized my commitment to my work and wish to exhibit my work on renowned platforms and am hopeful that it would help me open up my own gallery too. I certainly expect and hope to still be working in this field in 10 years.

  • Collaboration Artists

About the collaboration