Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Shahzia Sikander on the Practice of Art

In this exchange between Shahzia Sikander and Art:21 on the nature of art practice, the conversation touches on the place of spirituality in contemporary art. Art:21 defines spirituality as follows:

A questioning of humanity's place in the universe, marked by an interest in self-reflection, mortality and meditation. Spirituality is often associated with things that are mysterious, felt before they are understood, and beyond the scope of human thought, time and history. Distinct from religion, spirituality is an attitude and not an organized set of rituals or beliefs.

Conversation between Shahzia Sikander and Art:21:

ART:21: Do you see any links between praying and fasting - practicing your religion - and the process of making art?

SIKANDER: I think the hard part is when you're out of practice.

ART:21: The hard part of what?

SIKANDER: Oh, the hard part of the lack of discipline is when I feel less productive. Like, if I am painting regularly and there is a certain structure and certain discipline that is being brought into the studio, my mind works better, I have better ideas. I'm able to accomplish far more. I'm able to move on to the next stage. But the minute that discipline leaves the studio, everything gets very scattered. And even times in life when things have gone to extremes, I do get back into a certain notion of spirituality where I need to be by myself, or I need to read, or I will fast, or I will do things which make sense tome, and which allow me to come back to that space. So the same way when I am working large and I paint and I do murals, and the next thing is I come back to miniature painting. It's just this whole dichotomy of experience. I do always come back to miniature. I can hate miniature for a while and I want to move ahead because it's frustrating, because of all the different reasons of doing something so labor intensive without much critical structure, which becomes exotified, and which takes years to make. So it's like always, "Why do I do this?" And I let go and do something else, but I always come back to it. And maybe because by the sheer act of doing it is what gives me a certain sort of peace.

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