Interview – Mariam Maqsood – Belgrade Art Studio Online Residency

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As someone with a diverse background and having worked in different regions, how do you envision collaborating with artists from various origins in this virtual residency? What opportunities and challenges do you anticipate in this global collaboration?

Having worked in Karachi, Dubai, Boston and now London I find the online space has been my best friend- it has helped grow and sustain my network over the years by staying in touch with artists over social media as well as being able to view exhibitions across the globe from the comfort of my home. I joined the online residency program with the hope to meet other artists, learn about their practice and share my ideas to get some feedback on how to create momentum in my practice as well as enrich it with their expertise. As this is my first online residency I am curious to see how far these connections will go as virtual social interactions cant compare to those we have in person.

Given your personal experience as an artist and mother, how do you interpret the theme “Artist on Standby” in the context of your practice? Can you share insights into how this theme may resonate with your artistic journey, particularly in the context of motherhood?

In addition to recent Covid restrictions we all lived through I have also been limited in my access to the art world personally since I have two young children, which has meant my practice has taken a back seat while I prioritise my family. In addition to finding the hours in a day to practice in the studio, I find the mental load of motherhood heavy and overwhelming on some days. This virtual residency has enabled me to dedicate a tiny bit of time every week to think/discuss/produce work without the commitment of travelling. It is how ever challenging to find the discipline to prioritise online meetings and creating artwork with a range of other things happening simultaneously but not impossible. The theme immediately caught my attention, as I have been very conscious about the ‘pause’ in my professional life over the last 5 years and it is apparent in my work as I move between my role as an entrepreneur, mother and artist.

Having been raised between Venezuela, the Middle East, and Pakistan, how has your cultural background influenced your artistic practice? Are there specific elements from each culture that manifest in your work, especially in the context of the online residency?

Coming from a family deeply rooted in the arts I was always attracted to the creative world whether it is art, music or literature. While studying art in Pakistan, a lot of my influences came from the diaspora particularly with theme and medium. My work on donkeys as a metaphor for the society I was living in spoke of the injustice towards women and the resilient nature of women. I have explored traditional miniature painting and more recently a contemporary neo miniature style where I use gold leaf with contemporary abstract paintings done in ink. I really value my experience working in the Middle East as that further enhanced my understanding of the traditional mediums as well as awareness of avant garde art practices and performance art across the region. The role of the ‘mother’ in South Asian homes has been of particular interest to me as I work through the dynamic of my own circumstances as well as reference the challenges one faces while being embedded in the home and reaching out to the outer sphere for a hint of mental stimulation outside of the home. My ethnicity is a huge part of my identity and I strongly identify as Pakistani within and outside of home.

You have an extensive background working with galleries and founding an online sales platform. How has this experience influenced the evolution of your artistic practice, and how do you balance your roles as both an artist and a facilitator of art through online platforms?

Finding the balance between these two roles has been exceptionally challenging, and I think I can speak for most mothers, as women we are particularly hard on ourselves. It takes a village to raise children and unfortunately my ‘village’ is very far from London J. There is no one solution to the equation, guilt never leaves us, we are constantly struggling to perfect each aspect of our life and master the art of multi tasking. I have realised it is helpful to segment periods of my life and prioritise accordingly; pre motherhood, motherhood with young children and one day hopefully mothering young adults. Currently working in phase two, which I believe is possibly the most chaotic few years of my life, the little time I have is dedicated to my personal practice, advancing my knowledge of what is happening in the world and how I can use it to inform my practice. As an artist I find there is no end to learning and observing other artists, but most importantly my practice is hugely impacted by my personal and global circumstances. Fundamentally being an artist has really helped me build my business ethos and guide other artists through their practice, and perhaps somewhere along the way the desire to come back to my own studio practice has taken precedence.

After periods of working sporadically in your studio, you mentioned a recent return to a new body of work. Could you share more about this work and the process of reviving your love for mark making in mixed media? How has this return to the studio impacted your artistic perspective?

Creating artworks is the core of my being. Working with artists and creating a sales platform for them came about from a desire to have such a space to curate my works. Therefore with the change in circumstances and multi tasking while being a mother I have returned to the studio and revived my love for mark making- and this time with true perseverance to create works with my current limitations and exhaustive list of desires for life. It’s been an immense support to have the online residency as a source of accountability, a group of artists to bounce ideas off and most importantly the encouragement to persist with however much is possible. These recent works are an investigation into the female emotional capacity and physical resilience. Looking at the womb, the space that is unknown to our present self yet most familiar to an infant while exploring the uneasy feeling between personal desires and societal pressures and possibly on the most personal, rewarding and exhausting journey of motherhood.

Your recent works explore the female emotional capacity and physical resilience, delving into the space familiar to an infant. What inspired this investigation, and how do you navigate the complexities between personal desires and societal pressures, particularly in the realm of motherhood?

My recent works are inspired by my personal journey of motherhood; the ups and downs and all the societal pressures women carry as mothers in the 21st century. Physical and emotional changes take over you, somehow suddenly feeling like a 24-hour day is crammed into just 4 hours. Its been challenging managing logistics but also the head space to be able to think about creative projects which I had never imagined before. Somehow I find it harder to get the creative cogs in motion while multi tasking logistics for two other humans. Motherhood came very naturally to me but so do creativity, ambition and the desire to succeed. I recently read somewhere and truly found it resonated with me, if only pausing your career to fully immerse yourself in motherhood was not depicted as a contradiction to success and ambition but rather an empowered choice to shift the focus of time and attention for a chapter in ones life. In an ideal world, the professional clock would stop ticking while the biological clock is ticking and vice versa- but here I find myself navigating the desire to create and procreate simultaneously!

What are your aspirations and plans for your artistic practice in the future? 

With the help of this residency I am hoping to bounce back and gain momentum in my practice. I am excited to delve further in researching the theme of motherhood and continue this current body of work while exploring avenues to exhibit the series when I’m ready.