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Faiza Butt

Pakistani Contemporary Artist
Born 1973, Lahore, Pakistan
Lives and works in London

Faiza Butt thematically deals with masculinity, violence and religion attempting to understand each through a feminist lens. Constantly aware of gender and identity issues and her role as a female artist, she envisages a political motive for her art which is experiential and universal at the same time. She derives a lot of her imagery from popular culture.

Education

1999

Master of Fine Arts, Slade School of Fine Arts, University College London, London

1993

Bachelor of Fine Arts (Honours in Painting), National College of Arts, Lahore, Pakistan

 

VIEW     Selected exhibitions     Text      Selected images      View all

LIFE AND WORK

UNDERSTANDING Faiza Butt

Men and masculinities crowd her canvas

Her exhibition “Pehelwan” comes out of her experiences in the city of Lahore and the hyper macho culture of the inner city as a child. Many of her images are mugshots from newspapers and magazines depicting stereotypically masculine Muslim men. These images allow her to not only look at the gender issues arising from such depiction but also show concern regarding the muslim identity in a global world. She places these men as eroticized objects of female gaze, reversing the female nude tradition of western art, submerging them in a fantastical narrative making a spectacle out of them. She takes the term Pehelwan out of its religious context to place it amidst a sexual imagery opening up questions of female sexuality. She also deals with the alarming intervention of weaponry in our world creating an imagery of hypermasculinity in her paintings but she undermines this by depicting bonhomie and friendship among these men.

Faiza Butt, Memories of a time that never were II, 2012, mixed media, 23 ½ x 33”.

Faiza Butt, Get out of my dreams II, 2008, ink on polyester film, 22 x 28 ½”.

Painting through a feminist lens to locate her diaspora

There is a constant awareness of gender and identity in Butt’s oeuvre coming from a place of experience as she grew up in a hyper masculinised environment in a family of five sisters. She feels the question of sexuality is under discussed in Pakistan and therefore continues to exhibit works which make its audience get out of their comfort zones. She does this and investigates her own identity by challenging masculinity as a master narrative critiquing and at the same time sympathising with those repressed by it, both men and women. These gender identities are consciously being investigated within a rapidly globalising and discriminatory world. In Two Tales of Whopped Fantasies she equates herself cooking elaborate meals to impress her in laws to a bearded man offering western edible treats in his attempt to impress the western world.

Faiza Butt, Untitled, 2008, ink on polyester film, 33" x 23"

Fusing of ancient and modern mores

Faiza Butt blends as well as juxtaposes the traditional and the modern challenging both these out of their neat dichotomy.  She works with a painstakingly elaborate technique of using tiny dots, reminding an art viewer of pointillism but instead is inspired from the purdokht style of miniature paintings- an elaborate process of covering the surface of the painting with individual tiny dots. These dots however replicate pixels of a photograph capturing the complexities, nuances and contradictions of the Islamic tradition.
My love plays in Heavenly ways, 2012, depicts the artist’s son mythologizing his play and fights on the traditional blue and white porcelain surface. It depicts tennis shoes and hairdryers alongside dragons, flowers and koi fish. In this way she manages to create unique images in a familiar schema. She also experiments with texts and encounters to create a politically sensitive art as in Zaveer Zangeer she uses the poems of Faiz Ahmed Faiz.

Faiza Butt, My Love plays in Heavenly ways-2, 2012, ink on polyester film mounted on light film, 33 × 44.48”.

Faiza Butt, Zaveer Zangeer, 2012, free standing, light installation, mounted durafilm: 78.7 x 59.1”.

Recreation of familiar images in a unique schema

Butt’s images are derived from popular culture, newspapers, packaging, cinema, sports, journalistic pieces, addressing the chasm that exists between ‘high’and ‘low’culture, between the native and alien’, familiar and unfamiliar. Her interest in the popular image developed in her childhood when under the dictatorship of General Zia museums and galleries shut down so that the only form of art for her remained in the garish film posters and other advertising. Her work reflects the surreal existence of contradictory images in culture; pop icons existing alongside Islamic drab for example Eminem and Elton John appear with a woman in hijab in Stars and Idols II, challenging the notion the assumed isolation between the two. Her imagery foregrounds a sense of multiculturalism and that as a humanist seems to be her political motivations.

Faiza Butt, Stars and idols II, 2006, mixed media.

The political as informing her work

Butt claims that everything is political for her and that is the role that she envisages for her art; to be purposeful and political. Her childhood in Pakistan with her mother obsessively desiring a male child made her conscious of gender issues from a young age. The Pakistan of her childhood often figures in her art intermingling with contemporary politics. In a direct response to the prevention of shaving of beards by Taliban in Pakistan her I’ll be safe in my mind depicts two talibs kissing, a play on the image of a narcissistic talib kissing his reflection and on that of a homoerotic and homosocial culture created by Taliban by excluding women from every sphere. She handles serious issues with her characteristic wit and humour challenging them eventually. At the same time she doesn’t demonise and make grotesque the talib or the terrorist marking her imagery as distinct from that of popular media. She claims that her aim is to document her milieu.

Faiza Butt, Untitled, 2008, ink on polyster film mounted on light box, 33" x 23".

Bibliography