Saturday, September 30, 2023

Prolific Pakistani Artist Explores 'Mysterious Inner Worlds'

“Being a displaced person you become an observer bringing value and significance to the refugee and immigrant experience.” - Anila Quayyum Agha


"Mysterious Inner Worlds" is the first solo exhibition in New Mexico featuring Anila Quayyum Agha. The exhibition features seven mixed-media drawings and four sculptures activated by light.

Becoming an Artist

Born in Lahore, Pakistan, Anila Quayyum Agha is an artist, scholar and professor. Being an artist in Pakistan, Agha says, “wasn’t very high on the food chain." Agha had to work to convince her parents she wanted to be an artist. There was only one art school set up by British colonialists in Pakistan, and she was accepted there at age 16 among 99 others from across the country.

After emigrating to the U.S., Agha faced new challenges, particularly in light of 9/11. Networking and understanding a new culture in the U.S. was of course difficult. “The sense of displacement and the sense of loss continues with you forever," she said. "As an immigrant, you have lost your country and your identity so, you have to recreate it.” Her goal through her work is for people to gain a better understanding of the immigrant experience.

Light and Shadow

Pattern, color, light and shadow are a major part of Agha’s work. Creating a sense of place and mood with light and shadow is a meaningful inspiration to her that comes from the Moghol Dynasty. "Jaali" is a term used to describe perforated stone etched in an ornamental pattern. It is both calligraphic and geometric. Located in Lahore was a beautiful jaali that Agha would visit as a student. Working with cutouts and stitchwork of waxed pieces, Agha dove deeper into her artistic exploration. As a professor, she received funding to travel to the Alhambra in Granada, Spain, where she became transfixed with the complex interaction between light and dark in the scroll and screen work there.  

Agha has received several prestigious awards including ArtPrize, where she won both the jury and popular votes. Her works are located in private collections, museums, and various art galleries within the U.S. and abroad. Her work is currently on display at the UNM Art Museum through July 2.


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