“Just the way I saw him, 365 days ago.”

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Epiphany?
As a pessimist I have to admit the following. Regardless of how blessed and thankful I am, a part of me still looks for a reason to live another day. All 365 days of the year, I constantly go over my mental bucket list on which only one item is crossed off. That one item being ‘cross one thing off your bucket list’ should give you an idea of where I’m going with this.. However, on my last trip to Pakistan, I realized how extravagant my ‘reasons to live’ were in comparison to the small blessings I am bestowed on a daily basis. Small reasons, that I have taken completely for-granted, which at any moment could be taken away from me! Numerous realizations followed, however the most interesting part is how I came to these realizations.

Deja Vu:
6 o clock sharp an old fashioned horn went off. As if the feeling of déjà vu, I rushed to the balcony of our little apartment. I tried to get the lock on my window to open but it was rusted shut from the last time we had visited. I put on my shoes & ran outside to get a better look; that’s when it hit me. It wasn’t déjà vu, it was the rush of realizations. There stood the same boy who had been delivering bread to us the last year we visited. The same boy, as though oblivious to the changes going on in the world around him, still stood tall. This boy had not even aged! The few strands of hair on his chin still remained freshly trimmed & his shalwaar kamiz just as starched as the last time I saw him, 365 days ago.

Prioritise:
The children around him had grown taller, but just as rude as before. This time they had siblings, half their height as though carbon copies of their elders. He still responded to them with just as much love, as though he did this for them. For him, all he needed was these kids looking up to him! Instantly the energy to live another day would be reimbursed. With huge bags hanging from his little Honda, he carefully picked out local chocolate bars of their choices, but the light in the children’s eyes could not even compare to his. At that moment, it was quite obvious how counting your blessings is just as important as prioritizing them.

Unemployment in Pakistan:
At times one must realize it is not what you do for a living, as long as you enjoy it. However, with the pacing rate of unemployment, many are left struggling. One of the main reasons behind this, is the uncontrolled growth of the population. The population of Pakistan is growing at an insane rate, hence logically there aren’t that many opportunities available. Some believe the reason behind this pace is due to early marriages, lack of awareness & illiteracy. Despite the uncountable schools on every street, some factors caused by corruption do not allow for a fair education system. Therefore, those that have gained their degrees through unofficial systems, are granted the jobs of those who deserved them.

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Content?
For that reason with such little opportunities available, at times many find themselves in a constant battle to be happy. On the other hand, for the blessed, knowing about the numerous opportunities available around the globe can also cause unsatisfactory to their current stage of life. So frankly, it does not matter whether you have it all, or if you don’t, you will always find yourself in the same battles. It’s those that make the most of them, that remain content.

All photos taken by yours truly!

 July 2014

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Islamic Art with Adam Williamson

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Artist Adam Williamson of East London, told us about Islamic art and how he is currently teaching it at King’s College. He showed us several films of how he interprets those same Islamic carvings into performances in front of a live audience! That was a great eye opener for me; seeing how one artwork or practice can take so many different shapes depending on medium and context.

“Visualising the same art piece through different mediums can give an entirely new meaning and therefore be presented to a vast audience” – Adam Williamson

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For that reason, even for an amateur artist like myself, I now find myself on a path between photography and live sketching. Having a passion for both, when my ideas begin to flow, my instant reaction is to start to sketch. Only once I am satisfied, do I turn my sketches into reality by actually taking pictures of what I had originally thought of using live objects. This gives me the margin to make mistakes while I am still sketching. Once all my mistakes fit in perfectly, I capture them through my camera’s lens. However there are times I prefer to do the opposite, and take much more spontaneous photographs. If I come across something that intrigues me, I often repeat the same stages, only this time, backwards.

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Adam emphasised on how important it is to constantly keep learning new skills to create a new platform. Watch the rest of it his tips here starting at 1m:
Enjoy!

 http://www.offscreenexpedition.com/2012_uk/home/episode/film-2-meeting-artists

 

Critical Thinking @ Tate St. Ives

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At our critical thinking workshop at Tate St Ives, things took quite a turn for me! Artist Greg Humphries completely caught me off guard when he asked me not only to sketch the person sitting next to me in under 30 seconds, but to use my opposite hand to do so! Forget about drawing, even gripping the pencil in my left hand was quite a challenge. Errors were easy to make and with only 30 seconds to spare, there wasn’t any time to erase my mistakes!

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It is quite intriguing to notice that when you draw with your comfortable hand, what you plan in your mind isn’t what usually shows up on paper. However that was absolutely not the case with my left hand. With the pressure of Greg’s voice counting down every second and constantly having to re-grip my pencil, what showed up on my sheet of paper was not even close to what I imagined in my mind… It was better.

The objective of the workshop was for us to realize the importance of mistakes. Struggling to stay comfortable with art is probably the first mistake an aspiring artist can make, and then removing all the evidence of past errors the second.

By the end of the workshop I openly confessed to Greg how from that day onwards I was going to start sketching, however uncomfortably, with my left hand. I had finally become comfortable with my own mistakes and vowed to try and never be ashamed of them again. He looked right at me, smiled and told me: “You shall go a very long way in life.” Just thinking back to that brings me goose bumps. The fact that someone so successful can give an amateur artist like me such great hope in just a couple of seconds.

Having been exposed to so many different artists and styles of art, such as Damien Hirst, Alex Katz, and Tracey Emin and then visiting artists all over East London, seeing the different ways they express themselves through their art, really proved to me how there isn’t just one path for an artist to take. It helped give me an insight into new ways of looking at art. When you look at an artwork, it may not mean anything to you, but once you learn about the artist’s background, all the elements in their art begin to make sense.

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Watch the excerpts of the workshop here!
http://www.offscreenexpedition.com/2012_uk/home/episode/film-3-value-of-creativity

Graffiti; Value Creativity

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Thanks to Offscreen Expeditions, I was fortunate enough to benefit from workshops I could not complete over years in Saudi Arabia! One of my favourites was located in what seemed the artsiest part of London, the East. With the help of MCP & Mark ‘Batlow’ we were given a street art workshop for starters. From the basics of stencilling, inverting images, down to changing caps for different strokes of the spray.

Below is an excerpt of the many ways we were taught to value creativity. Click on this link to watch the film

http://www.offscreenexpedition.com/2012_uk/home/episode/film-3-value-of-creativity

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Towards the end of the workshop most of us had finally learned how to handle a spray can!

There was no stopping us.

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At first when I was handed the itinerary for the expedition, this was the one workshop I was looking forward to least, as it was too out of my comfort zone. However, once the workshop came to an end I realised how important it really is to step out of your comfort zone.

After a successful workshop, we had transformed East London!

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Winner of Create & Inspire 2012

Create & Inspire 2012

In the summer of 2012 I was granted the title ‘Winner of Create & Inspire’. The theme of the competition that year, was focused on the islamic pilgrimage, Hajj. Lucky for me, I had perfumed perfumed Hajj that same year where I had first starting taking photographs. At this point photography was just a mere method to take pictures of the journey, and not at all an artsy tool. Towards the end of Hajj I happened to sit right next to the woman in that picture. At first it was very difficult to snap a picture of her without her knowing, however I thought i’d take a risk .. she smiled right at me!

If at that moment someone had told me, this old woman would be the reason behind:
– falling in love with photography
– changing my education plans from business to graphic design
– going on a 17 day expedition all around the United Kingdom thanks to Offscreen Expeditions
– AND getting my photography exhibited at the British Museum?

Never in a million years would I have believed that. She later inspired me to write one of my best pieces titled  “A Million Emotions

I guess I owe her a lot.

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“Award winning photograph for Crossway Foundation’s acclaimed competition, Create & Inspire& expeditions programme targeting UK and Middle Eastern youth.  A London-based charity delivering arts and education initiatives for young people across the UK and Middle East, with a regional search to find the most talented young artists, photographers and filmmakers.”

Exhibited at :

The British Museum – Addis Gallery : (January 2012 – May 2012)  Click here for Details

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Feel free to read more about the creative journey on  http://www.offscreenexpedition.com/2012_uk/blog/by/118

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Typography; Under Appreciated.

ImageKul II / Photo 20

Nasser al Salem is a Saudi architect who has had a passion for calligraphy since the age of 6. (athrart.com, 2014). Khalid Akil, born and raised in Syria also moved away from his educational background in law to pursue his passion in photography. (khalidakil.com, 2011). From a series titled Kul, Al Salem shows the perfect blend of his schooling in architecture and passion in calligraphy in his piece Kul II. Akil also works with a series of black and white images titled The Unmentioned consisting of photos form Syria, one of which is photo 20. In Kul II, Al Salem emphasizes on the importance of one’s perspective by continuously changing the dimensions of the single word ‘Kul, meaning everything, to verify its significance from different angels. Mr. Akil’s use of a troubled individual, with his back half turned towards a wall covered with advice, depicts how generations continue to echo their ancestor’s mistakes despite being warned. Artists of both pieces have intelligently used the powerful tool of typography to communicate very vast philosophies.

In Kul II, Mr. Al Salem tries to create a virtual space using the characters of his text. By adjusting the dimensions of each letter, with every step forward he creates a foreground of text and a background of a path that one should follow in order to see life from different perspectives. With the use of specifically Arabic typography, Al Salem’s artwork reaches out to an extremely wide audience. As opposed to focusing on the Saudi community alone, he calls out to the entire Middle East, thus confirming the power of typography. Mr. Akil however, uses a similar approach yet preaches a different message. He photographs a wall camouflaged with excessive amount of text that may be read as advice. By using Arabic excerpts from the Islamic holy book, he sends out these messages of guidance to the entire Muslim community. Displaying how despite the overflow of advice, most of it is being wasted. The overwriting also displays the loss of such an important message that is the word of God. However the wall being situated in center of Syria gives the audience another chance to learn from their mistakes. Once the generation begins to understand, the city shall embellish. Therefore, the typography not only aids the development of the city and its people, it also fulfills the criteria of being adornments to the streets. Mr. Akil also provokes the audience by changing the orientation of the text on the wall from horizontal to vertical to show how at times one must change the way they look at things in order to understand more.

Mr. Al Salem takes a confident step, as he incorporates no other element in his artwork other than the letters themselves. By correct placement of the typography, coupled with the meaning of the word ‘Kul’, the final execution of the artwork is successful. This leaves the audience aware of the fact that with a change in perspective, ‘everything’ can be achieved. Hence these two elements do justice in communicating the significance of the artwork and require no additional elements. Khaled Akil incorporates a more traditional method of gaining ones attention, by using the contrasts between black and white. A dark shaded wall covered with bright white text instantly tells the audience where the message of the artwork lies. He also illustrates small sketches behind all the text to show how advice has been given in many different ways, yet is still overlooked. Hence these sketches remain hidden under overlapping text depicting how most have not even realized their presence.

At times a change of perspective may take the audience through a series of disappointments, until one stage proves to be satisfactory. Al Salem shows these different stages in his artwork, as bridges to different insights with the curve of every character. These ripples inform the reader that there is no end, as one must keep trying after every rise and fall. Eventually stepping back and seeing the entire composition from a distance, one shall realize the various stages they went through. When rotating the canvas 90 degrees, Al Salem illustrates a repetitive outline of a lens, hence proving, the piece is meant to be looked at in perspective. Once again, reaffirming his point on how a slight change in ones viewpoint can change an overall interpretation of a matter. On the other hand, Khalid Akil portrays a man, simple in nature, in order to represent all sons of Adam. He appears to be disappointed by the generations with his glance towards the floor. Akil adds a twist to the attire of the old man by dressing him in a mix of western clothing combined with a turban. By doing so he proves to us how at times regardless of how much one is guided by tradition; some things are bound to change. In Akil’s photograph he also begins to fade the text, yet some parts remain bright. Demonstrating how the generations are continuing to hold on tight to their traditions, whether it is visible or not.

Typography has proved to be an extremely beneficial tool, when used cleverly by both artists, in communicating extremely diverse ideas. Whether it be the surplus use of text, or the spacing between each character, both techniques give a whole new insight into the artist’s mind. An extra touch of contrast and change of perspective, allows the audience to focus exactly where the artists desires, therefore fully appreciating the complexity of each artwork’s meaning.