Nusra Latif Quereshi
at The McClelland Galleries
Nusra was born in Lahore, Pakistan and holds a BFA, National College of Arts, Lahore, an MFA, Victorian College of the Arts, University of Melbourne and Lives and works in Melbourne. She has exhibited widely and has some impressive awards to her name. I knew nothing about her artworks before her presentation at McClelland but was invited as a new volunteer to start experiencing the various services that the gallery has for the public.
The demonstration and talk were based on a video slide presentation of Nusra’s work going back over several years. She has developed a distinct style of blending traditional art styles from her homeland with western art and modern digital techniques. Her talk backed up to the exhibition at the Melbourne Library for Chisholm of ornate hand made books from Persia and nearby countries which is covered in another blog in this site.
For one thing Nusra explained how Wasli paper was created. This material was in many of the books and artworks I saw in Melbourne and I had been wondering what it was and how it was made. Wasli is a traditional surface and has been in use for many hundreds of years, it consists of three to five layers of any type of paper which can take water that have been glued together and then burnished with anything shiny such as agate or glass to allow it to take on a shiny surface. The result is a very robust thicker paper that allows for very ornate work. The burnishing makes sure that there is no chance of bleed from any line work drawn or painted on it.
Nusra trained in the methods of creating this paper and has used it for very detailed work in gauche and ink. She likes to blend her training in traditional Eastern art with that of Western art for her own interpretations of historic and current events and her view on the world. She borrows from existing themes to put her own slant on them and her experience as an immigrant from Pakistan is an important part of her art.
Nusra also uses Illustration Board for many of her works as the creations of Wasli is very time consuming and she has other life commitments and needs to balance them with her career as an artist (as many of us do). She has also incorporated watercolours into her art and the use of cameras, scanners and computers with particular use of Photoshop for image manipulation.
The slide show consisted mostly of her blend of traditional and modern artworks on illustration board and Wasli. They had line works and blocks of solid colour, with various images overlaid, some using text in the style from her homeland to create a theme. Some were triptychs others diptychs or single artworks. She likes the use of “found images” that she can manipulate to create something new and often uses several of these to create one image.
Nusra produced prints of herself as a base with text over the top incorporating flowers and vivd colours working on a theme of women’s place in society and expectations of women today. What women should and should not be doing as far as society is concerned. Her artwork called the “Invisible Gun” had overlays of outlines of groups representing the four major religions in Pakistan flanked by simplified images of the implements used to hold up large rifles over a hundred years ago. These were all simplified to line and colour blocks. Vivid colours and fine outlines with planned design created a story with no violence or harsh images even though it told the story of division and bigotry.
Nusra has also photographed female relatives and used them with traditional portraits overlaid and merged digitally to create a long piece produced on clear acetate. The focus on the faces was to bring out the difference in time, society and culture. The female relatives often cover much of themselves to fit with cultural confines, but she noticed that they compensate by adding more and more to their makeup and in particular to their eyes to make them stand out. So she was pointing out that no matter how you make some women cover up they will still find a way to nearly yell out “look at me!” So she asked us the question, why bother, really!
Nusra’s latest work uses outlines of male figures with red blocked in hands overlaid. The theme is religions of the world and their impact on our lives. She has used found images and deconstructed them and applied her own creativity to give now meaning. At tis point she emphasised the naming of your artworks. It is of great importance that you think about how you name a piece, she said. When the artist is away from their work and it is left for others to look at it and start to give it meaning, the name you have will give them guidance on what your motivation was.
Nusra is still happiest when using traditional methods to create her artworks because of the wonderful effects and the ability to get such fine detail and quality finish. She also mentioned that these traditional methods were very environmentally friendly as they did not rely on any harsh chemicals. She followed with the fact that this was not always possible and having other methods such as the computer and software had given her new avenues to explore with her art.
I very much enjoyed Nusra’s presentation and it dovetailed with the exhibitions from the day before and answered several questions I had about the production of the books and artworks I had seen. She was a very knowledgable and personable artist, articulate and entertaining as well. It was a well spent hour at the gallery for any artist, art student or anyone interested in looking at and learning about well produced art.
If you are interested in looking at Nusra’s artworks they are on her website at: http://www.nusriqureshi.com