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.

Find out more on 

Facebook: @sorayasikander and

Twitter: @sorayasikander 


Published by unicorngallery

Leading art gallery of Pakistan, Unicorn Gallery was Founded by art critic Seemah Niaz. Unicorn specialises in the history of Pakistani and Indian painting and has presented works by some of the most distinguished South Asian painters including Ustad Allahbux, Abdur Rahman Chughtai, Ahmed Parvez, Bashir Mirza, Colin David, F N Souza, Gulgee, Jehangir Sabavala, Krishen Khanna, M F Husain, Murtaza Bashir, S H Raza, Shakir Ali and Vasudeo S. Gaitonde. Unicorn has a high reputation for the quality of its exhibitions, Annual Art Book Fair exclusive to Unicorn, art scholar talks and documentary screenings. Unicorn is also active in the preservation of the history of regional painting by way of a prolific production of art monographs and books. Unicorn Gallery has hosted retrospectives of major masters including: Sadequain’s Rubbiyats, Jameel Ahmed A Forgotten Master, Ghulam Rasul - Pakistan’s most influential landscape painter and most recently Laila Shahzada a life - The legacy of a pioneer of modern painting in Pakistan. Unicorn Gallery was Founded by Seemah Niaz. Unicorn Gallery specializes in Modern and Contemporary South Asian Art and has a high reputation for the quality of its exhibitions, annual art book fairs, lectures, documentary screenings, launches, seminars, internships and other opportunities. Unicorn Gallery holds numerous thought-provoking exhibitions in collaboration with curators, art galleries, museums, institutes and organizations, and sources to auction houses. We encourage scholarly research and exploration of art as seen from its historical, cultural, and social contexts with art critics and historians. The gallery produces its own exhibitions including traveling shows, introduces new art publications and hosts retrospectives of major painters as well as represents emerging artists, who experiment in a wide-range of media, display technical skill, diversity in portfolio and are innovative in approach. Unicorn Gallery’s exhibitions have encompassed all the visual arts including: painting, drawing, sculpture, printmaking, serigraphs, photography, architecture, film, video and performance. SEEMAH NIAZ was educated at St.George’s School in London, England and Lahore, Pakistan. She is a M.A previous in English Language and Literature from Punjab University, and B.A. in French and English Literature from Kinnaird College. She has been a freelance journalist and has contributed articles to Herald, Newsline, Dawn, Star etc. She has curated numerous exhibitions on South Asian Art in Dubai, New Delhi, Singapore and London and is the Founder of Unicorn Gallery, Karachi, and Unicorn Space, Dubai. She is widely traveled and has taught at The Lyceum School, St. Patrick’s, Karachi, Westminster College and David Game. Seemah is actively involved in social work, promoting literacy and child health in Pakistan. She is the author of the ‘Mona Naqsh’ biography. Niaz has lectured on Pakistani Art at the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland in London.