WARDA RANA MAKING PAKISTAN PROUD AS HER ARTWORK LIGHTS UP TIMES SQUARE
Visual artist Warda Rana has made Pakistan beam with pride, as she is one of the 69 artists whose beautiful artwork was showcased in Times Square, NYC last month. We speak with the artist on her reaction to finding out the big news, her artistic journey and more…
Hello Warda! Before we talk about your professional life as a visual artist, tell us a bit about yourself.
I was born in Kuwait and brought up partially in Maryland, Baltimore, U.S.A. I did my Bachelors in Business & Marketing from Middlesex University of London, Dubai, U.A.E. I come from a family with an artistic background. However, it is completely opposite to what I am doing now. I have longed for something without rules and limitations. Painting has been a passion since childhood, which lead to a profession. I have tried many things in life as a profession but never been content about it. I had always felt I needed something more. I went to London, United Kingdom to do a makeup course in 2018. I got certified as professional makeup artist from AOFM, Academy of Freelance Makeup. I worked backstage in London Fashion Weeks. From there I took on as a freelance professional makeup artist. I started a career in it. Through the passing years, I felt the career is restricted in terms of creations. I didn’t feel this is something I want to do. That made me realise it is art which is missing the need to create something of your own beliefs for the world to see, feel or relate to. During covid-19 when the pandemic hit, I am sure many of us can relate how it made one think to different level of volumes during the lockdown. It was as if the world has been paused and clicked on reboot. I, without giving it a second thought in January 2020, pulled out a paper and started painting instantly and never dared to stop again. Therefore I chose to paint and create art, which is absolutely limitless and has no boundaries. It gives me an utmost freedom to express my inner self and show the viewers how I see the world around me. It is my platform, my runway, my paper and canvas, where I can be expressive without words that are what was missing and pulled me back into it. That day and today it is history now.
‘It is honestly a dream come true as a Pakistani visual artist to represent my country through my work in Times Square, NYC’
When did you realise there was an artist in you? Are you self-taught?
The artist in me was present since childhood. I am self-taught. I have always loved creating anything to do with life, be it a living or non-living thing. I continued drawing and painting in every stage of my life as a passion. I have plenty of artworks created ever since then. Nevertheless, with time I have enhanced my skills by learning more about different mediums and their possibilities and need restrict myself to only medium.
What's your earliest memory of being in this creative field?
LINES - A simple bold expression of a line. ‘Lines fascinate me, they play a vital part of life or it gives birth to any creation be it living or non-living. If you see, lines are literally an ‘ABC’ of life or art and without it nothing can or would be possible. It gives birth to every creation.’
Last month, out of 69 artists from all over the world, two of your artworks were show cased in Times Square, New York! Walk us through the process - how did you get featured and what was your initial reaction like when you got the news?
So, in February 2022 on a normal routine day I was just scrolling and exploring on my Instagram when I came across an open call for artists in ‘Broadway Times Square, NYC’ with no restriction towards a theme but a celebration of diversity through art. It was extremely thrilling to be honest and exciting. I, without giving it a second thought sent in few of my artworks. After a month, a notification bell rings and notifies me ‘your two artworks are selected’. I literally had goose bumps and jumped out in joy and ran down to my family and shared this fabulous news with them. It is honestly a dream come true as a Pakistani visual artist to represent my country through my work in Times Square, NYC. I am extremely grateful to Allah for this fortunate opportunity.
‘As an artist I believe if my artwork brings a positive impact on society or breaks stereotypes then I feel I have done my job’
Do your paintings have any hidden meanings?
My art is reflection of me, the journey of my life and my struggles. They all are deeply imbedded in it. You can say it is encoded in my art - it is for me to know and the viewer to find out.
One piece of work very close to your heart and why?
This is quite hard for me to choose as all my artworks are extremely close to my heart. If I have to choose only one then it has to be ‘Bloom’. ‘Bloom’ is based on unity ‘From no country but all, strive for peace. United we rise, divided we fall.’ There is nothing more to explain to this. Humanity above all.
Where do you find inspiration from? And how do you overcome creative roadblocks?
Life inspires me. I believe simplicity is power and less is always more. My approach to art and design is minimalistic and love the spontaneous expression of a simple black bold line. As an artist, I am still exploring endless possibilities of art. I truly believe art is beyond paint and brush, it could be more than that anything with an ‘idea’ behind it. The curiosity that is present in every person will definitely make them tend to find out about everything they see and make them question its existence. For me the viewer is an artist where the artist learns from the viewer’s depiction, which creates a learning curve for both ends. Art has no boundaries, if you connect with it or not, there is still beauty in it. Sometimes art is just aesthetically pleasing, an eye can find it immensely beautiful or connect with it instantly. Quite similarly to a very famous quote ‘The beauty is in the eye of the eye beholder’; if you like it, you like it and there is no justification for it. Lastly, art keeps evolving with time and believes in evolving for the best and one should never stop learning. You can never know it all and that is the beauty of it to keep learning until you master your craft. There are days when the creative roadblocks hit in which is absolutely normal. We all go through it. I overcome it by taking a break from it, change my surrounding or sometimes I will go take a walk; I don’t stress over it because when your mind is relaxed your ideas will flow down organically.
What are your thoughts on Pakistan's creative field? How can it improve?
Art is a natural accessory to human life. It keeps evolving with time and it is really nice to see how art is being appreciated and recognised in Pakistan. There is so much talent in Pakistan but opportunities are less or restricted towards a criteria in terms of talking about arts. We should create more opportunities not only for graduates in Arts but adhered towards the self-taught artists too. A chance should be given to all art pursuers be it a degree holder or by passion pursuing it as a career. I am sure the country would gain many more gems.
According to you, what's the purpose or goal of your work?
Art is freedom for me. It is a way of communication, shape our everyday lives, make a social statement and be enjoyed for aesthetic beauty. Whatever the case, the arts play a really big role in how humans see and interact with others and the world in general. Art helps us e m o t i o n a l l y, f i n a n c i a l l y, psychologically, and even helps to shape individual and collective personality. There are so many reasons why art is important in the world, today and always will be. It shows us that what people are thinking and feeling is important, beautiful, and valid. It is a powerful and entertaining way to get someone else's perspective on something. As an artist I believe if my artwork brings a positive impact on society or breaks stereotypes then I feel I have done my job.
What's next for Warda Rana?
I am really looking forward to two of my exhibitions with one of U.S.A’s top leading furniture design brand that are going to take place in two countries in the Middle East. So, I am working on that and hoping all turns out great.
INTERVIEW: SAFA ADNAN
PHOTOS: COURTESY WARDA RANA