15 September, 2008

Classes have started at Princeton. I have settled into a rigorous schedule of academics and extracurriculars. And while the most adventurous summer of my life now seems like a distant episode, everyday of my life is colored and informed by that experience.

The body of artwork I created over the summer will be exhibited later this year at Princeton. The drawings and photographs serve as excellent starting points for my certificate in Visual Arts (especially my Junior independent work). Though the project was non-academic in nature, even in the first few readings of my architecture courses this fall I constantly find references to paintings and buildings I came across this summer.

Most importantly, it has been a journey of self-discovery. I realized that the most challenging and also the most fun part of the project was that I was traveling alone. While it made it difficult at times to deal with situations (such as being followed late at night in a deserted Paris), it also forced me outside of my comfort zone. I actively sought to meet as many people as possible. Those encounters with people, paintings and architecture will remain a part of me forever.

17 August, 2008

28"x44" ~ pencil on paper

No erasers were used in the making of these drawings. I have been meaning to do this for a long time: a huge sheet of paper on which I can illustrate the process rather than worrying about a finished painting. I think of the pencil lines as a skeleton which holds the image together, or like scaffolding thar props up the domes of the mosque. Another theme being explored here: looking up and looking down, and how that changes things.

16 August, 2008

28"x44" ~ pastel on paper

Even though the girl in the drawing is blind, she was very eager to pose for this picture... I think it comes through.

13 August, 2008

So some time ago I tried something (which I thought was) very interesting and now it is finally ready to be viewed. It might be a little like going to the Modern Art museum in the Centre Pompidou and staring at three big, white, completely blank square canvases which have been carefully arranged next to each other on a large white wall. Such art either seems like a joke played by the artist to fool the viewer or, conversely, it may be read as very profound. In this case, the "painting" was part of the modern movement and was testing just how far you could take minimalism... how could you avoid repeating yourself when everything has already been said and done? At least thats what I got out of it.

For my special arrangement, I took sketches and paintings that I had done, and cut them up into 90 regular 8.5"x11" cards, which I bound into a sketchbook. Cut arbitrarily like this, some "paintings" remain complete images (albeit almost always cropped in an interesting way), and others acquire a more abstract quality, so that one can stop worrying about the subject and simply trace the composition of forms, the splash of colors, the energy and movement of pencil lines...

You can view the gallery by clicking here, or on any of the images above.

10 August, 2008

11"x17" ~ watercolor on paper

09 August, 2008

As the train started moving towards Paris, the fields began to transform into city. People would come in and leave at each stop, and soon the train became very full. I was focusing on individuals, noting what they were wearing, how they were conversing, and it was all foreign. Men and women dressed for work, teenagers with skin-tight jeans, arab girls with scarves, arab boys sporting alternative fashion. I couldn't decipher the code. I couldn't pass off as a Parisian. Not with my luggage anyway.

That was one of my main goals: to be able to navigate the city without seeming like a foreigner. I did not have a list of tourist attractions that I was going to tick off. I was not going to strive to master the French language during my stay. Yet by the 5th day, I had gained that certain confidence, the ability to sweep past the ticket counters and enter the Metro with a flair of familiarity and control, backpack, wallet and iPod in place.

What I saw and visited, I really internalized. There were some things that always remained at the back of my head - like revisiting Montmartre or taking a boat ride on the Seine - but time flew by and I never got around to them. I don't really regret it. They are excuses to revisit Paris.

One such name was that of the Hotel de Ville. It would appear on maps, Metro station lists, and other guides. It was a Metro stop very close to the ones I frequented. Only while looking back at my photography did I realize that I had photographed it without knowing what it was (I had been mapping tower-tops as a friend and I walked to see the Centre Pompidou).

Here is a watercolor of the Hotel de Ville, which I got to know better this time around. This is one of a few I have done recently. Maybe it's time to switch gears again...

08 August, 2008

Sabeen sent me this photograph today, in an email titled "Waqas being a good citizen;)." It brought back memories from that last morning in Delhi. It was such a coincidence meeting her there, at the airport, and I didn't know she took a picture while I helped some Indians fill out their emigration forms. Their professions: mason, carpenter, plumber. They were going to work in Saudi Arabia for two years, not knowing what lay ahead, not knowing how much they would miss their home and family in those 24 months.

06 August, 2008

14 Juillet 2008
11"x17" ~ watercolor on paper
approx. 11"x17" ~ watercolor on paper

Paris, Paris, Paris... the last is a carousel seen from the Eiffel Tower.

approx. 11"x17" ~ watercolor on paper

This is the famous church that Van Gogh painted in his last years. I started this when I was at Auvers-sur-Oise. It got all ruined and now here it finally is. I'll work from this and maybe develop some variations.
approx. 8.5"x11" ~ pastel on paper

03 August, 2008

approx. 8.5"x11" ~ charcoal, pencil and pastel on paper

These mark a transition. I am moving away from Roman sculpture and starting to tackle the other subject that interested me in Paris - the cityscape and architecture in general, and rooftops in particular. I want to tell the story of how this magnificent city converses with the sky above. Hopefully this is something I can pursue in the Delhi cityscape too, and thereby make some sort of comparative studies. But we'll see what happens...

The last of these is one of the lights on Level 1 of the Eiffel Tower - I go behind the scenes to unravel that magic.

Of course, the sculpture theme is far from exhausted! But I'll return to that later.
approx. 8.5"x11" ~ watercolor on paper

This didn't photograph very well, but I'm putting it up anyway before it takes its place in my portfolio. This was done one evening in the studio mentioned in the previous post.
This wall in my college room in Paris (the room i liked to call my studio) served as a sort of record of my adventures in the Paris art world, and beyond. It was a way to add color to this perfect studio with white walls and a wooden floor, a fridge and a desk.

The dilemma, however, was whether I should go out and explore the city or stay in and work. Because I had August to do a lot of the latter, I gave preference to going out.

I so want to go to Paris again - maybe next summer I'll look for an Architecture internship there...
28"x44" ~ pen-and-ink, charcoal, and watercolor on paper

This is (arguably) the largest portrait I've ever done. It started off as a pen-and-ink drawing, and then charcoal was introduced, and then watercolor too found its way into it. It was one of those instances when there's music playing, and you're open to possibilities and you let the drawing dictate its own terms. It was fun.

02 August, 2008

28"x44" ~ pastel on paper

Again, it was the expression on his face preserved in silver that really intrigued me. Though I had initially planned to continue with charcoal, I thought color might be a good thing to delve in at this point. This sculpture too was in d'Orsay. Below are details of the same drawing.
11"x17" ~ watercolor on paper

Before working on these, the last time I painted in watercolor was 2 years ago.

31 July, 2008

18"x24" ~ charcoal on paper

This is my drawing of a sculpture in Musee d'Orsay. The sculpture is behind glass because it has been damaged and chipped off at several places. It's color is a decaying grey-green. Despite all that, it is full of energy, and the emotion it holds (is it sadness, ecstasy, pain, yearning?) transcends time and space.

30 July, 2008

I have put up some sketches as a more focused continuation of the sculpture theme. As I mentioned yesterday, I love to add narratives of my own to these. I couldn’t help, then, to bring some of these to life, merely by adding a dark spot in the eye. You can tell those apart from the sculpture, where the eyeballs are blank.

You can also click here to view photography from the tomb of Abdullah Shah Ghazi (a famous Sufi holy man?). Muneeb and I went there today with his photographer friend, Hina. After that we went to the Karachi Seaview beach and took pictures there.

29 July, 2008

The Moleskine sketchbook that Bronson gave me on my birthday has been a very close companion on my trip. Because I easily forget things, the sketchbook has served as a guide and reminder. It has notes, phone numbers, hand-drawn maps copied from the internet, sketches and drawings, and also journal entries. These entries are not really for anyone to see but just for me to look back to and recall certain key moments and emotions in their freshness.

The sketchbook also held various cards, guides, tickets, and brochures at different times, and has grown and evolved as I have myself.

I have photographed pages with drawings of Greek and Roman sculpture from the Louvre and Musée d’Orsay. They have been a focus for me in Paris. Not only do they display great artistic skill and beauty, they also carry mysterious narratives. I care little about who these people are – I am interested in interpreting them myself and ascribing narratives to their lives. This may be the beginning of further exploration.

You will also find two sketches I did rather hastily during the light and sound show at the Red Fort in Delhi – it was dark and photography was not allowed. I look at these sketches and can relive the excitement of the show I experienced that night.