"I wish to create art which can show the true colours of my soul."
The ever so gifted Amina Art Ansari is a British Asian visual artist who is based in Pakistan.
London is not only her place of birth but a city where her artistic dream became a reality. Amina studied at Central Saint Martins, London College of Printing and National College of Arts in Lahore, Pakistan.
Her parents moved to Britain from the East. This had a big influence on the work of Amina, incorporating the East and the West in her art.
Her mother Durdana Ansari OBE, Honorary Commander, Royal Navy plays a significant role in her life. She is a former producer at the BBC who was famous for her Urdu programme ‘Shaheen Club.’
With Amina living in Pakistan, her artwork embraces the culture and lifestyle of the country.
Her artwork portrays social justice and cultural issues through human figures and portraits. Amina Art Ansari uses oils, dry pastels and heavy brush strokes and more to achieve such vibrant pieces.
She is known for having her paintings of the Royal Family hung up in Windsor Castle in 2012.
Amina has cleverly come up with the idea of ‘Art Therapy’, claiming that it helps those who are deprived or suffering.
Amina Art Ansari has previously created pieces on the late Abdul Sattar Edhi, Shah Rukh Khan, Asim Azhar and many more.
For her astonishing work, Amina Art Ansari has received many awards and achievements. This includes the Nazia Hasan Foundation Award at the House of Commons.
DESIblitz presents an exclusive Q&A with her talking all things art, inspiration, future hopes and much more.
When did you first become aware of your artistic and aesthetic abilities?
‘Ammi’, my mother used to draw under fireplaces and behind the cupboards, as no one in her family took her art seriously when she was young in Rawalpindi.
However when she moved to England and when I was born she used to do a lot of portraits of me and she started exploring any art talents in me.
In reality, it wasn’t me who had noticed anything artistic in me, it was my mother. She thought that I had the germs for art in me and I had no option but to follow her instructions there onwards.
Little did she know that I very rarely listened to her. Although I know she always talks sense. Eventually, I understand her logic when she is still trying to make me understand based on her massive experience of life.
How supportive were your parents in your chosen career path?
As Ammi felt deprived of her art skills, she made sure that I delivered in art universities. I had chosen art for GCSEs, as an excuse to get away from special needs pressure.
I then realised that my quick work formed A* grades each time!
On my very first oil painting, she was astonished at how I captured Afghan refugee kids, considering I’ve never been to Afghanistan.
She made sure she fed me with roti in her hand and followed me to the washroom, in order to make sure I return to painting. As she knows for a fact that I have a short attention span.
So much efforts and belief shows the scene of my art today.
How powerful is ‘Art Therapy’? Does it work?
My aim is to bridge the gap between deprived kids and transform them with positivity, via ‘Art Therapy.’ For the last two years, I have been conducting workshops for women and deprived individuals at the Pakistan National Council of the Arts.
Expressionism is an artistic style where the artist seeks to depict not objective reality but rather subjective emotions and responses.
The student accomplishes this aim through distortion, exaggeration, primitivism, and fantasy. This is done through the vivid, jarring, violent, or dynamic application of formal elements.
I demonstrated how we tune from negative to positive emotion as ‘Art Therapy’ and by educating the psychology of colour.
How did you react to your paintings being hung up in Windsor Castle?
It was like as if a fairy-tale had come into action and the reality was actually part of my career’s best turning point.
I was told to arrive with my two paintings, a portrait of Her Majesty and the Duke of Edinburgh at the gates of Buckingham Palace.
“I could not feel my body.”
It was too cold, I could hear very faintly what was being said. I was asked to go through security and someone else held my two huge paintings for me. They made me feel very important.
Upon my asking, and to my surprise, I was informed that “your paintings will be part of the Windsor Castle’s collection.”
How has your art evolved since moving to Pakistan?
In the first place, I didn’t wish to move to Pakistan, hence I made a lot of fuss and resistance. My mother suggested that I should get a touch of the East to enhance my paintings with eastern authenticity.
I was very unhappy at first but as time has gone by, I have built up my relationships with the local vibrant colours in my art.
Moreover, I also developed a relationship with first-hand materials. I thought about how we are self-made and more hungry than the West, rather than the ‘off the shelf mentality.’
Travelling from the West, from the United Kingdom, London, the heart of Her Majesty Queen’s land, emerging to thousands of refugees from rural areas, I’ve had to endure every walk of life in every sense, be it both personal, educational and at a professional level.
In a sense there are no special needs, one has to stand up for oneself in order to bridge gaps and to educate the same in South Asia.
There is never an education on its own in order to go forward in life. It is about the practical and spiritual needs, in the means of the addition of ‘knowledge’ and ‘logic’ in life.
Tell us about your studio and how does it inspire artistic development?
Ever since I have moved to Pakistan I have been privileged to have big size studios. Plus the hot weather helps my sinus system clear and I am able to paint for hours.
Especially being in Islamabad, looking at the Margala hills gives me the inspiration to paint. At times I am able to get assistance from young, underdeveloped artists in this very difficult field for them to gain confidence and experience.
So far I have managed to inspire 100’s of students, which wouldn’t have been possible had I not been in Pakistan. They often do not get an opportunity to explore their talents.
“Moreover, if I did not have my own studio, this would not be possible.”
Therefore I consider myself lucky as well as fortunate to gain that energy that I am always seeking for.
In terms of art, what media and technique do you prefer and why?
I work in oils, watercolours, dry pastels and mixed media. Like the gifted ones, I do not plan my work.
It flows from my inner depth and most of the time, the completed work is a surprise to even myself. As a self-taught artist, my various works show the smooth flow of the brush and telepathic colour as expressionism.
As my motifs represent abstract features of different walks of life from the West to East, I feel it’s a global communication in my works. For each walks of life, one tends to feel it is their own cultural traits.
I have no problem with that because it allows one to relate and imagine from their own corners.
It is all about perception and pondering at the end of the day. ‘The scientifically and psychologically transferred colours, go back to basics and the superficially mixed colours.’
The visible and the invisible comes to mind.
How did Double Aces, Superman and Lovers Exhibition come about?
There is late Abdul Sattar Edhi with Professor Abdus Salam (late) on a playing card of spades. Hence, it is called ‘Double Aces.’ The highest of hearts, diamonds and clubs, but it is ‘double’ power in aces.
Both served internationally and listed in Nobel Prizes, however, unfortunately, Edhi passed away.
There are so many questions on the status of the Edhi Foundation today and having to paint him last year with another concept of who we support. With the positive and negative in the image, this time I believe this new painting celebrates their status of world service.
“It can hopefully encourage the public to do noble deeds, rather than debate.”
It is a game of cards, and how we use our power and luck to ‘ace’ our duties. Father of Humanity and Father of Science as the nation’s gems.
Lovers Exhibition was introduced by Artcade Gallery at the Marriott hotel, to bring love in our lives. Whereas my messages behind lovers go beyond, such as humanity, peace and bridging gaps on many levels as my other works.
The Edhi Saab portrait is seen as ‘controversial’, what do you make of this?
‘Him or him?’ painting – The question of opposition, and the one that has created so much fuss and attention in media. The NOISES.
The one and only Mr. O came to mind, and a perfect example to explain Edhi’s anguish in his eyes yet he remained focused to do his deeds. Humanity is humanity regardless of what religion.
What is with a face and what is without a face for one to determine? Only a few can recognise this question and the rest wouldn’t have a clue.
This is my way of saying that we have a responsibility to recognise, simply because our children’s future is in their hands.
How did I accomplish it? As my motifs represent abstract features of different walks of life from the West to East, I feel its a global communication in my works.
However, for each walks of life, one tends to feel it is their own cultural traits and I have no problem with that because it allows for one to relate and imagine from their own corners.
It is all about perception and pondering at the end of the day. I thought it would be a great way to have the same question in Mr. O’s features.
Whereas Edhi strikes ‘global’ but diminished with the likes of a teabag effect on the same concept with his demureness. The shimmering of golds in outlining Mr. O comes to mind.
However, it was a heavy heart to create such an eminent soul, it was not easy to perform this honour.
A lot of sleepless nights, simply because the subject is riveting from the past to the future, both personally and professionally, and an icon of this world. Whereas there’s always a ‘shadow’ in order to move forward and one should be bold about it.
Tell us about your wonderful collaboration with Jamal Shah?
The ‘Situation 101’ project started from Karachi Biennial in 2017. Jamal Shah invited me to Islamabad to reinvent the layout on his sculptural Murghas from February 2018.
It has been more than a year since the 101 sculptures were developed with layers of paints as well as mixed media.
The thought-provoking work comes from Jamal’s idea of punishment, to mine on ‘how do we rise with Logic v Emotion and Half Robotic and Half-Human’ concept.
I also did workshops with interns and workers of PNCA as part of ‘Art Therapy’ and the use of techniques applied.
“Some of these faces are marked on Murghas as part of a community contribution and reflections.”
As an artist, what matters to you the most?
“I wish to create art that can show the true colours of my soul, by bridging gaps between East and West.”
The West where I was born, The East where my family came from as a fusion.
The basic status of being a human and to recognise on a humanity level. The determination between Logics and Emotion, Sufism and Robotic mannerism.
This helps us to define ourselves and determines how we approach life in many manners.
Finally what interesting art projects do you have in the pipeline?
I would love to make iconic paintings that can have a place in history. Circulating with the medium of television, media, fashion as a message of Amina Art Ansari – The Provocateur.
To make a difference from negatives to positives globally with my messages as a global citizen. The thought-provoking psychology and science behind the word ‘Art’, and educational awareness.
“I want to create art which can transpire colours in one’s psyche.”
My aim is to bridge the gap between deprived kids and transform them with positivist, via ‘Art Therapy.’
For the last two years, I have been conducting workshops for women and deprived individuals. They take place at the Pakistan National Council of the Arts and workshops in Bani Gala organised by Artcade.
BBC London covered the ‘Health and Well-being’ concept over this so-called ‘Art Therapy’. It can bridge gaps in humanity, including health benefits or mental health.
Amina Art Ansari is looking forward to seeing what the future holds for her. Having the best of both worlds in the art scene has been rewarding for Amina.
It would be great to see her continue to beam and flourish with success in the near future through her immaculate, vibrant, meaningful works of art.
She hopes to continue helping those in Pakistan who are less fortunate than others, recognising their artistic talents.
Look out for upcoming pieces by Amina Art Ansari of her website here:
Alternatively, follow her on Instagram and Facebook to keep up to date with her.