If Roses were blue

Karachi based visual artist and writer, Imrana Tanveer’s work incorporates weaving and textiles, and appropriates iconic images from both Western and Pakistani art and culture to address social and political issues. There’s a sense of vivid engagement with history in Tanveer’s oeuvre with a perspective that is both yielding and stark.

Tanveer’s first solo show was featured in the top 10 solo and retrospective exhibitions of 2013 by Islamic Art Magazine. She has been shortlisted and featured in the Golden 15 award category of the International Emerging Artist Award hosted by Sabrina Amrani Gallery, Dubai; She is also the winner of IEAA 2016 awards exhibition in Brussels, Belgium. Her work is part of the renowned collections of British High Commission, Islamabad, Amin Gulgee Gallery, Karachi, and Lerimonti Gallery, USA, to name but a few.  Imrana shares her vision with Afshan Shafi Please tell us about your background as an artist and your education in this regard.

I graduated from the Textile Institute of Pakistan, Karachi as a textile designer in 2008 and started working in the denim industry. Those one and half years were literally and psychologically “blue” for me. Working with mostly/only in shades of blue and being restricted creatively and denied the ability to design at your own pace was very disturbing. I eventually quit my job and moved forward to pursue my creative desires by enrolling  in a Visual Arts Master’s program in 2010 at the National College of Arts (NCA), Lahore, as suggested by my husband.

Which artists, local or international, have influenced or informed your point of view the most? 

Those would be Vincent Van Gogh, Yinka Shinabore, Ruby Chishti, Risham Saeed, Anish Kapoor, Ai Weiwei, Yayoi Kusama and Do-Ho Suh.

Blue of the War Sky, paper and thread, 94×50 inches approx, 2016

I See a Premonition (61), 102×75 cms, inkjet print on artpaper and zari thread, 2016

 Kiss of Love, 102×66 cms, inkjet print on artpaper and cotton thread, 2014

What has been a seminal, life changing experience in terms of your art?

I think as life moves on an artist’s inspirations and experiences change too. Quitting my job in 2010 and joining the NCA was phenomenal and since then I’ve been creating constantly and that creativity is shaping my life. Having a design background and joining art school was a very difficult experience. Those two years of studies were critical, as well as helpful in developing and polishing the artist in me.

I See a Premonition (64), 102×75 cms, inkjet print on artpaper and zari thread, 2016

Which of your creations are you most attached to and why?

Well this is a bit like asking a mother who her favourite child is. My work is really dear to me but my most favorite creation is Post Betrayal. This is an installation canopy from my thesis work, which evolved and formed after I purchased the camouflage fabric. The market from which I bought the fabric used these canopies for shelter from the sun and to cover goods on trucks in bad weather conditions during transportation. The parachute camouflage is also used for tents. I wanted to use that canopy and replicate the process of punching holes in it by repeating the process of punching rivets numerous times. These thousands of small metallic rivets punched on the camouflage tent represent bullet holes.

The premise of the work is as follows: the purpose of the tent is to protect and provide shelter and the rivet is used to strengthen it, but by overdoing the punching, it represents our own behaviour and attitude towards the safety of the state and borders.

Post Betrayal, Metallic Rivets on Parachute and Nylon Lace,120×144 inches, 2012 (Photo Credit, Aly Naqvi)

What themes do you find yourself drawn towards most often in your art?

I’m really fond of many Art Movements. Some really inspire me and I have appropriated many masterpieces from different Art Movements (e.g. Pop Art, Classical, Renaissance etc.) in my works. And sometimes I just flip through art books and delight my eyes in going through the history of the Arts.

If you could travel back in time to an era in art history which period would you choose and why?

I would like to see Van Gogh painting Starry Night, Michelangelo sculpting Pieta and Bosch painting The Garden of Earthly Delights. I want to travel many eras…to me art history contains a wealth of visual stories and inspires artists on many imaginative and intellectual levels.

What is your dream project?

Right now I’m thinking and dreaming of large scale public installations. I’m also dreaming of incorporating the Empire State Building and Guggenheim Museum in my work.

What work of art do you wish you owned?
I would love to own Van Gogh’s Starry Night of course, Jan Van Eyck’s Arnolfini Portrait, Hokusai’s Great Wave and Pieter Brueghel’s The Procession to Calvary.

Which artists living or dead would you have loved to collaborate with?

I would like to collaborate with Zaha Hadid, Peter Paul Ruben, Imran Qureshi, Van Gogh, Ai Weiwei and Cai Guo-Qiang

What memorable responses have you had to your work?

My work has received usually positive and welcoming responses. I loved the response of my last two installations at the Taseer Art Gallery and Sanat Art Gallery in 2016. At TAG, I filled the entire gallery floor with rose petals and allowed visitors to feel and experience the sensational installation. While at Sanat the gallery was covered with thermocol balls, which represented the beauty that has been lost in the brutal past, and that can only be remembered through a glimpse of visual delights.
Other than that my first solo exhibition titled I Saw Two Crows Building a Nest under His Hat was considered one of TOP 10 exhibitions of 2013 in line with Monir Farmanfarmaian, Reza Derakshani, Rana Begum and Maïmouna Guerresi, etc.

Status Quo Ante, 40 x 54 inches (approx),  Paper and Thread, 2014

Roses were Blue (edition of 25), 16 x 14 inches approx, Paper and Thread, 2014

Roses were Blue, Installation, rose petals on floor, 2016

What are you working on as a future project?

I feel like the “future” is a myth. I’m living in the present and producing work for a few exhibitions in line. I’m also in the process of shifting and organizing my studio space at the moment.

Good Times

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