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Masooma Syed

Pakistani Contemporary Artist
Born 1971, Lahore, Pakistan
Lives and works in New Delhi

Artist Masooma Syed works with organic and inorganic materials such as wisps of hair, necklaces made of discarded human nails, non-traditional mediums such as nail polishes, fingernails, chilies, wings to bones, paints, and living birds, giving them a story of their own.

Her heterogeneous works celebrate a wide range of emotions often based upon her memories from childhood, dilemmas of daily life, and hurdles of a cross-border marriage.



Masters in Visual Arts, National College of Arts, Lahore


Bachelors in Fine Arts (painting), National College of Arts, Lahore

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Masooma works with a range of mediums

Masoom works with a range of mediums like materials gathered off the bodies of her friends, her family - a crown from her mother’s hair, tiny chandeliers from her friends’ fingernail clippings. An astonishing amount of care, attention, and labor is implicit in each of these works. The delicate materials are carefully washed and cleaned; the structures made from fingernail clippings sometimes require that tiny holes be drilled into them and each strand of hair is stiffened, shaped, and placed.

Keeping the sense of creativity alive, leaving the science in art behind, Masooma's later pieces exuded joy and compassion, especially noteworthy as her previous work had generally dealt with dense, intellectual subjects. Avoiding in advance the possibility of critical reviews and fulfilling the incessant urge to produce intellectually appetizing pieces had previously been a priority for the artist, but now, she said, she chose to embrace "the crazy preposterous, comical, nonsensical and insane world, in all its length and breadth, with its magic and mighty mighty tricks".

Masooma Syed, 2013, “Everybody Must Get Stoned”

Masooma Syed, 2013, “Everybody Must Get Stoned”

Masooma's works are influenced by her childhood experiences and cross border issues

Masooma was born and brought up in Pakistan but married an Indian and shifted to New Delhi after her wedding. The artist’s journey exposed her to new grave concerns, cross-border issues, and deeper insights into the struggle of in both countries. To deal with her emotional turmoil and find answers to the conflicts which raged within, she turned to art.

She worked with mediums such as newspapers which affected the masses, thus incorporating an organic wholeness into her work. These mediums play an instrumental role in influencing the general opinion of masses and the memory retains these in our subconscious mind, even if we put it aside consciously. Her latest works are huge charcoal paintings made on newspapers carefully chosen for their headlines and content, consisting of images that contrast with images of so-called ‘high culture’ such as romance, comedy, tragedy, and history. The idea is to make art low-key and accessible, to reach out to as many people as possible, and this reflects the ethos of a true artist.

Masooma Syed, Neerat Soorat ke Bail Banao, acrylics, inks, pastels and charcoal on paper, 27 x 95"

She believes the artistic journey is as important as the destination

Masooma refreshed our palettes by presenting a tasty, quirky blend of photographic prints, cardboard miniature installations and miniature sculptures. The artist's heterogeneous pieces are a reflection of her creative, absurdist mindset in her approach towards her works.

The issues that concern her and eventually become the subject of her works are social structures - the pressure of survival, politics and people. She uses unconventional materials; both organic or inorganic, like metal, paper, paint, stones, human nails, hair, broken jewelry pieces, nail polish and a huge array of objects from daily routine left unused or thrown away. She believes that materials have a soul of their own and she can listen to them if she desires, hence making the medium as important as the message.

Masooma Syed, No Man’s Land, human finger nails glued together

Jewelry is used as a recurrent symbol to show faith as a strong vehicle of communication

Jewelry is widely perceived as a decorative object made to serve purposes like body adornment, meditative needs, and pieces of emotional value but Masooma believes that it also behaves as a strong vehicle of communication. The movement of jewelry on a body creates a subtle tactile experience and as an art form is a strong medium of body expression.

Masooma makes jewelry that takes form of a sculpture made from unconventional and discarded materials sending across message of human connectedness and pushing limits of the conventional.

Masooma Syed, Untitled, found object, threads, paper and metal