INDIA ART FAIR 2018 : Anila Quayyum Agha : Light Patterns

Anila Quayyum Agha : Light Patterns


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Anila Quayyum Agha – The Artist

Pakistani-American contemporary artist Anila Quayyum Agha’s ‘All the Flowers Are For Me’, at the India Art Fair 2017. It was a crowd puller for its sheer beauty and delicacy. The artist showcases the delicate art of filigree in a contemporary context. However, she firmly adheres to the concept of the filigree or the “jaali”.

Traditionally the “jaali” is meant to share and not expose. From the time of “purdah” to the women of ancient cultures, especially royalty would use the protection of the “jaali”. This was used to safely and discretely view without being seen and heard – for example a court proceeding.

In the current context of feminist dialogues – it is unheard of to have a veil. Often the power lay behind and beyond the veil. In the soft folds of silk lay those who were imminent decision makers and influencers of the times. Over time the concept has changed and organically grown with other ideas developing. However, the timeless beauty of filigree has the power to arrest one yet.

Agha’s Work

Image Source : Art From Us Collective


We handpicked Anila Quayyum’s red, laser-cut, stainless steel and bulb installation. It uses light as a metaphor to deal with the idea of loss. It reflects  on the complexities of love, loss and gain.

Born in Lahore, Pakistan, Anila Quayyum Agha has an MFA in Fiber Arts from the University of North Texas. Agha’s work has been exhibited in over seventeen solo shows and fifty group shows. She has won numerous awards and grants.

Anila won the two top prizes at Art Prize 2014, in the international art competition held in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Work titled “Intersections”, earned the Art Prize 2014 Public Vote Grand Prize. It also split the Juried Grand Prize in a tie.

What influences Agha?

In her own words Agha expresses that  “Having lived on the boundaries of different faiths such as Islam and Christianity, and in cultures like Pakistan and the USA, my art is deeply influenced by the simultaneous sense of alienation.The transience that informs the migrant experience. This consciousness of knowing what is markedly different about the human experience also bears the gift of knowing its core commonalities. It is these tensions and contradictions that I try to embody in my artwork. Through the use of a variety of media, from large sculptural installations to embroidered drawings. I explore the deeply entwined political relationships between gender, culture, religion, labor and social codes.”

Anila also shares that her experiences in her country and as an immigrant in the United States. She interweaves both of them intricately into her work. It allows “redefining and rewriting women’s handiwork as a poignant form of creative expression.”

Additionally Quayyum says that “Using embroidery as a drawing medium I reveal the multiple layers resulting from the interaction of concept and process and to bridge the gap between modern materials and historical patterns of traditional oppression and domestic servitude. The conceptual ambiguity of the resulting patterns, create an interactive experience in which the onlooker’s subjective experiences of alienation and belonging become part of the piece and its identity.”

Aicon Gallery, New York

Aicon Gallery has been specializing in modern and contemporary non-Western art with a special focus on South Asia. The New York gallery provides a vital platform for Modern and Contemporary artists from South Asia as well as the Middle East and, finally, diasporic artists to realize their vision in a global and ever-shifting world.

In this context Anila’s work gains further and deepened significance.  Following recent debates in institutional curating, the program deliberately links together art produced recently with art made in the latter half of the 20th Century.  Through this, the gallery hopes to produce unexpected congruencies, shed light on multiple modernisms, make complex the designation “contemporary” and signal a shift away from simple survey exhibitions.


The India Art Fair Countdown

To begin the ten days countdown to India Art Fair 2019, Divvya Nirula handpicks this gorgeous installation by artist Anila Quayyum Agha at Aicon Gallery, NY, thorough her personal blog D’s Art Takes

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