Soraya Sikander EASTERN EYE LONDON ‘Top 10 Art Moments’


January 08th, 2016

My Top 10 Artistic Moments (And inspirations)

By Soraya Sikander

“My work is about the natural world in a state of change. It explores my subconscious and immediate environment. I use art as a means to arrive at ecology, not merely the surface, but the constant changing and evolving faces of landscapes and its dynamism,” said Soraya.

Soraya Sikander featured in Eastern Eye - Britain's best known and most respected Asian paper
Soraya Sikander featured in Eastern Eye – Britain’s best known and most respected Asian paper


Being outdoors: I always go outdoors to paint. Whether I paint the sea or mountains, whatever my subject, it will reference an actual existing location I find engaging. The environment is essential to understand study and observe nature.

A usual day of painting for me involves packing my easels, oil paints with brushes, solvents, rags, canvases, getting dressed in track pants and sneakers, and then travelling to a place that has recurred in my thoughts. I recognize a landscape by their features and some places leave an imprint on my mind, almost carved into my psyche. I am haunted by particular scenery until I return to paint it.

Getting my first art set: I have always worked in oil paints. The kind of tonal seascape paintings I make are best realized in this medium. My earliest sets of paints were Michael Harding pigments. I also paint with Old Holland paints and use only the finest quality brushes. Currently I am enjoying the convenience, flatness and luminosity of acrylic paints.

My first exhibition: I have been painting for several years now, but I remember my first solo exhibition, which was A Floral Symphony in 2010 at Unicorn Gallery. They had been painted in my balcony garden. The play of light caught my attention.

Most memorable exhibition: I am best known for my solo exhibition series In, At and Around, which explores urban space. The exhibition was edgy, playful, experimental, rooted in cultural identity and presented a unique and new approach to painting sceneries and cities.

Magic moment: My first calligraphic landscape painting will always be memorable. It was painted on a roof – there’s just something about being under the open sky that makes me feel alive. Something triggers off a sensation; a feeling of lightness and of being – call it an awareness of one’s existence. I am most complete in such moments.

First art sale: This was when I was in foundation year of an art college. I was painting for myself and it was a Jesus on the Cross scene. I was practicing my hand at academic realism, when an art collector who was visiting the gallery walked into my office room, saw the piece and asked me how much it was.

Dutch delight: I was recently in the Netherlands for my exhibition and visited Wassenaar, Hague and Amsterdam. It was fall and the bare trees contrasting with the yellow fallen leaves were absolutely sensational. For an artist, no country can be more gratifying to paint visually than the Netherlands. The way it is designed with the windmills, structure and architecture. I have never felt as inspired, stimulated and aware of my surroundings as I did there. I would like to visit again, just to paint.

Childhood memories: My childhood memories replay in my mind and have perhaps helped shape me. What I remember of being at home and growing up were flowers. We had a stunning garden and I used to get thrilled each time I saw light fall on the florals. They appeared to have changed colors with light, and this fascinated me. I realize now this was my first encounter with light and shade. I am equally interested in the works of old masters for their use of dramatic contrasts, rendering and ability to create a mood.

Being at work: I spend hours working on a composition and each moment is memorable. I start with a brush mark, and a sketchy underdrawing.I define my painting areas, and redraw while I paint. I heavily thin my oil paints to create sweeping horizontal strokes that suggest hints of land. I gradually build my work, layer upon layer. Some works are almost immediate and definitive. They have spontaneity to them and they are complete. Others need reworking, reconsideration and many judgment calls.

Heroic inspiration: I have multiple heroes and this list keeps updating itself. However, the works of British painter JMW Turner were extraordinarily dramatic, large and tonal. They expressed mood and almost possessed the viewer to the point where even after walking away, it plays on your mind. I would say he is one of the greatest landscape painters in the world, purely for his use of light. And, of course, the work of the French impressionists and their projection of nature cannot be emphasized enough.

soraya sikander eastern eye britain

Soraya Sikander is a Pakistan-based contemporary artist.

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Twitter: @sorayasikander