02 July, 2008


I have to admit even I don't fully know what this project is all about. I suppose it will only be exactly apparent when it’s over, but maybe I can repeat what I’ve told others: “This summer I am going to live in Paris and Delhi for an independent painting project funded by the Martin Dale award at Princeton.”

I guess the nature of the award itself is peculiar. It’s meant to fund a summer activity that is not academic in nature, and that helps a Princeton sophomore explore a personal interest. I forget the precise words and will have to look them up as soon as I get internet (I better!).

So as it is July 2nd already, and I’m writing this after I’ve finished writing the next entry about my arrival, I’ll copy my project proposal here. I must warn you that since the writing of that proposal, I have made some changes. The main reason was financial – a hefty tax on the grant and ever-shifting exchange rates meant I could spend less than one month in each city. Maybe it may work out even better this way. I will still be working for eight weeks, but I can use the last days for finishing the artwork I’ve started during my traveling. Also, instead of the structured painting workshops, where an instructor leads a group of people, I have decided to make the project truly independent. One reason for this is that those workshops focus on beginners and limit freedom. The project as a whole seems to be evolving into something very urban. I’ll still visit the locations where these classes are held, but I will be working on my own.

With those disclaimers out of the way, here is my project proposal:

My proposed project is a Painting and Photography Travel Portfolio. I am looking to travel first to France, and then to India, and spend my time sketching in pencil, chalk, and oil pastel, and painting in watercolors, and acrylcs. I want to experience Paris and western art, and then synthesize it with the experience of the Subcontinent. The project is an attempt to demonstrate that art can serve to show people their commonality.

I have identified a program in France, which offers professional studios at the Chateaux of Amboise located in the heart of the Loire valley, 140 miles from Paris. The countryside location will be a great source of inspiration for art, especially in the free-flowing medium of watercolor. This program offers lodging, outdoor painting excursions and structured workshops. It will last a week, after which I will travel to Paris. There I will live for another three weeks in housing acquired through the American University of Paris, and continue to work independently and record my experiences and my artwork in a photo-journal online. After this immersion in Paris, I will travel to Delhi, India.

I have visited Mumbai, Delhi, Pune, and Lucknow and I cannot wait to visit India again. Being surrounded by artwork by prominent Indian artists will be a great inspiration to create art. Also, in Delhi I have friends who have offered to take me around the city. Here too I will continue to add to my portfolio and prepare it for a subsequent exhibition.

I come from a traditional middle-class family in Karachi, Pakistan. My parents chose to give up “luxuries” such as cable TV to send me and my four siblings to private school. I have always wanted to be a visual artist, but I also know that I need to be able to earn for and support my family. Princeton’s liberal arts education has given me the ultimate opportunity to reconcile my passion for art while getting a professional education in Architecture. This summer project will be a chance for me to indulge my love for painting, and to find and develop through a rigorous immersion in it, a personal style and direction. I know that even artists make a lot of money in Pakistan, if they are good.

The project is meaningful to me also because I am a peace activist. Coming from a country torn by political strife, engulfed in a nuclear arms race and struggling to sustain democracy, I appreciate the need for building bridges between different cultures, religions and nationalities. In 2004, in my capacity as the Regional Coordinator for Youth Initiative for Peace, a global movement, I organized with my friends in six cities of India and Pakistan, a traveling art exhibition. We worked together to invite art students and prominent artists to submit artwork on the theme of Changing Mindsets. In the opening ceremony we screened a documentary and that, along with the six hundred pieces of artwork, spoke directly to the people on the other side of the border, in the universal language that is art.

The objective of this project is to create a substantial portfolio of artwork in various mediums that may be exhibited along with a journal consisting of photographs, and personal observations and reflections. Because the goal is to reach as many people as possible, my work will also be available on an online photo-journal.

I hope you will decide to fund my project.

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