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Celebrating feminism with figure paintings

Celebrating feminism with figure paintings

Soft-spoken and hardworking Zarmena Aslam is among the serious Pakistani contemporary artists passionately and consistently painting the human figures with a good command on the subject.

Except a couple of male portraits, she has been painting female figures and portraits for almost last seven years.

Her father, a medical doctor, wanted her to follow his profession.

“Considering my passion for drawing and painting, my father realised that I can’t study medicine. So he left me at my own,” says Zarmena.

After doing MPhil from the Lahore College for Women University, she is currently working as a painter and a part of faculty at the Institute of Art and Design, University of Punjab and the Lahore Arts Council.




“My works are going through various phases but the love for feminine beauty is always at the centre of it. From the very beginning, I worked with a feminist perspective. I started painting females with different subjects, these works might be conceptual or realist but the focal point remains the same. During the process I realised that women are the most beautiful creation of nature, and I firmly believe in it.

While painting dancers and actresses from the local stage, Zarmena explored so many dimensions of the female personality. It led her to study their backstage and off the stage life.

“I met so many actresses and visited the theatres. They looked glamorous but in fact they were different in reality. I found another kind of beauty, a ‘divine beauty’ in them. Their personal life inspired me to delve deep into the subject.”

Zarmena is grateful to Saeed Akhter, Dr Khalid Mehmood and Dr Sumera Jawad who groomed her as a painter.

“I am personally close to Sumera Jawad. She likes my paintings and was kind enough to exhibit my works along with her own in a show last year.”

Zarmena believes in mastering the basic skills before venturing into conceptual experimentations, saying she disagrees with the existing trend of jumping into conceptual modern art without having a command on the basics which is like the pop singers, trying to establish themselves as singers without having the basic skills and sense of music. She thinks that their work lacks maturity.

She is currently working on a series of paintings titled “Females with Butterflies,” saying that a butterfly is a very delicate creature and it is related with the feminine beauty and sensitivity.

After experimenting with a wide range of mediums, Zarmena settled with oils on canvass, considering it in harmony with the nature of subject she is dealing with.

“After drawing with pencils, I start working with thin layers of paint which are mostly monochromatic. The sensitively merging with brush strokes are meant to express the delicacy of my subject,” she relates.

She develops her works with rich palette ranging from very mellow and monochromatic to radiant sharp colours. Playing with unusual and odd compositions is another strong element in her visuals.

Published in Dawn, July 24th, 2016

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