Preparing for exhibition
Nilofar Akmut I met at Byam Shaw School of Art on the first day. She adopted me on the spot. She told me which underground pass to buy, what art shops to go to and also sometimes took over where I didn’t wanted her to. At the time, 27 years ago, I just had come from Germany and my English was that limited that she didn’t understand me, so I just let her go on until the present day.
At art school she was my ‘translator’. As we spend every day together, not just at art school, I could understand her Pakistani accent but not my English tutors or my English fellow students to the big amazement to everybody around.
Nilofar has worked in every discipline I can think of. However, this might not be on her CV besides being another major achievement of hers, she took out a year to concentrate on working with her niece who had learning difficulties. After a year of Nilofar’s total devotion to that child the niece was able to join main school.
I admired Nilofar’s work from the beginning of art school, watched her development over the years, felt a bit alienated when she declared herself to be a political artist but have come to grips with this work now and keep admiring it and her. Nilofar is a very loyal friend. Google Nilofar and you will get a lot of information. Under this address might be the most recent writing by and about her. http://www.newmoves.co.uk/nrla-2006/48-archive-2006-nrla/269-nilofar-akmut
My pencil drawings at MPA-Gallery. I was the first artist to show when they opened their new gallery.
I have developed a mark after contemplating the challenge of managing an ordinary life. One pencil line stands for the way I am walking towards success, (whatever that might mean). Then I come to a point where I cannot get any further, therefore I take a sharp turning, try a different route – another line – until I have the same experience of a seemingly insurmountable obstacle. Then again – sharp turning – different route – another line, and so I go on. Finally my paper is covered with countless lines which take a sharp turning on and on and on. Now I go over the drawing again, doing the same, giving it another layer of sharp angled pencil lines. I do this several times until I consider the drawing to be finished. It is a long process until I am satisfied with my work.
I don’t see my work as a tool to give a message, I just enjoy doing it. It is relaxing … it is like a meditation; at the same time a thousand thoughts run through my head. Sometimes I feel angry and use a pencil so furiously that my paper gets damaged, sometimes I feel sad and tears run down my face while I am drawing.
When I look at my work closely the sharp angles look dangerously spiky. Please Imagine I would build my lines with metal in the same way I have made my drawing; if I then touched it I would hurt myself. When I look from the distance the perception is quite different; my drawing now looks soft and hairy.
It always surprises me what effect my drawings have on my visitors, never once have two people’s interpretation been identical. Sometimes strong emotions are triggered, sometimes even anger. In one exhibition people were so angry that they tried to destroy my work. (My thoughts immediately went to the 19th century painters who had similar experiences and are still admired today.) Some, in contrast, see calming beauty in my work. I myself, I just love my drawings, and still today, sometimes, I am amazed that I am the one who has done them.
Recently I started wondering if I should look for a deeper meaning in my work, to see if I could learn something about myself. As I work in a minimalistic style I thought maybe I had done in my artwork what Socrates had done in his teaching. He stripped knowledge down to the very essence. In his book What is Good A. C. Grayling tells us that ‘in the Apology Plato has Socrates admit that, although he has sought knowledge all his life – mainly by asking everyone to tell him what they know – he has not found it. …what principally mattered to Socrates was the quest itself – the quest for ethical understanding, the living of the examined life – rather than the conclusions he or anyone else came to. Or perhaps his point was that even though the ideals suggested by such a quest are in practice unattainable, the life of striving towards them is itself the good life.’ I am still not clear about my aim – sure, a good life – but what does success, ‘a good life’, exactly mean for me? I probably go on with the same mark in my drawings for the rest of my life, and enjoy it.
I had not finished my contemplation that putting myself on a par with Socrates is a risky business when I showed Anna a small drawing of mine. She found my drawing very disturbing and expressed her feelings in multiple ways. When I asked her to look from the distance she calmed down. Then I asked her if she could recognise a certain mark, a kind of system in my drawing. She had another close look before she hesitantly suggested:”Do I see a Devil-Star?” Eh? I did not know what this was, I only knew the David-Star. Anna made a drawing of a David-Star and then one of a Devil-Star to show me the difference. And – yes, her Devil-Star was exactly the mark I had developed. Apparently Devil worshippers are using “my” mark. This revelation was an extraordinary experience for me, I was shocked. I had a Lutheran upbringing.
Generally, I am of the opinion that whatever people see in my work they bring it to my drawings, it has to do with them, only with them. On the other hand – my work has triggered off their ideas and feelings; and it is true that the Devil-Star and my mark are identical in the physical image. I wonder what history will reveal to me; will I find that Devil worship and worship of God is not far apart?