In anticipation of her live painting session with Singulart at the Affordable Art Fair Battersea, we took five minutes with Pakistani artist Uzma Sultan to discover her multicultural influences and artistic practice. After growing up in Karachi, Pakistan, Sultan moved to London to study art and has since lived between London and Berlin, always returning to her home country to visit. Sultan has painted in multiple corners of the world, sourcing materials and inspiration throughout her travels. Her paintings consist of detailed interiors and everyday life through bright color palettes and great attention to patterns. Discover the world of Uzma Sultan, her journey through different cultures and artistic mediums, and the painter she would have loved to meet.
Hello Uzma! What inspired you to pursue a career in art?
I had thought of studying architecture but found myself more on the art side of things. The switch to art was an easy one for me, but hard to justify to others.
You were born in Pakistan and have since lived between Berlin and London: how have these 3 cities impacted your work?
I arrived in London as a student for higher education, so all my art schooling has been in London, apart from a semester back in Pakistan. It can be exhausting to travel back and forth across continents, but it is never boring! I have to go to Karachi every year to see my parents so I find inspiration there too. I leave work in all these places and bring them over wherever and whenever I need them. I have been going to Berlin since 2013 and have done a few residencies there. This is why I have unfinished work in my studio as I may leave to travel and only get back to finishing it months later. Travel is integral to my work. Often I find it difficult to paint in London because of the stress of the city!
You like to experiment with different mediums, can you tell us a bit about that?
I love to use different materials, ranging from perspex, aluminium, and vinyl, to more traditional canvas and linen. The surfaces have a tactile quality and I find that paint behaves differently on all of them. My most favorite support is aluminium. Also, we live in a world now sadly where things are all plastic, so why not make that into art too? I use patterned vinyl which I buy from the market in Karachi, Pakistan. It is also called PVC or oil cloth. The patterns you find there are wonderfully surprising and unique.
Do you see painting as more of a question of subject or material?
A painting is more about the paint, color, process, and the joy that comes from the act of painting itself. Material is the vehicle of this creative process. Of course, the subject is equally important too, otherwise you would paint a vase of flowers in the most boring way!
Do you prefer to work alone or are you a part of artistic communities that you collaborate with?
I love collaborating with artists for projects and have learnt so much through engagements with other artists in artist residencies. At a residency, you never know who you might meet! So far, I have been in residencies in Germany and Italy. I am my most prolific self during a residency, and the artists you have exhibitions with is equally important too. But in any case, I must work alone in my studio too.
You recently participated in a live painting festival, and will soon do another session in Battersea at Affordable Art Fair. What’s that experience like? Do you feel added pressure?
The live painting session I did was at an arts festival in an Italian village which went alongside a music and food festival, so the atmosphere was totally relaxed. It went on for several days, but the visitors felt intimidated to enter our studios, so we had to stress that they were welcome to see the works in progress. I hope the Affordable Art Fair Battersea live painting session won’t be a nerve racking one!
Do you have a favorite painting or photograph?
The Kiss by Gustav Klimt.
If you could meet any painter from the past, who would it be and why?
Hard to choose, but I think it would be Salvador Dali. His work was outrageous and mysterious. I have made paintings of food and tried to incorporate material that looks like chocolate by using dark umber thick paint. Is that what Dali meant by edible beauty? Paintings often have hidden meanings and a link to the subconscious. I also saw that Dali published a strange surrealist cookbook. And I like to cook too.