Amna Walayat / Q&A
Amna Walayat is one of six artists working with EVA International as part of the ‘Platform Commissions’ initiative of the 40th EVA International (31 August – 29 October 2023). In this Q&A, the artist briefly introduces the project and her working practice.
EVA: What are some of the key themes or ideas that are explored within your artistic practice?
Amna Walayat: Power and control are core themes that I try to address in my work, I feel particularly inspired to address issues of power struggles across gender, politics, race and slavery. My work is influenced by Michel Foucault’s ideas on power, and Edward Said’s book Orientalism, which I studied during my MA at UCC. As a female, Asian, Muslim, migrant, mother and artist, these strands of my identity are personal, yet they also give me an opportunity to connect with global issues. Violence against women and children are themes I am continuously addressing in my work, such as the history of religiously-controled Mother and Baby Homes here in Ireland. My paintings are silent protests or performances, against violence.
EVA: Could you expand upon the materials and methodologies you tend to be drawn towards within your practice?
AW: Although I am trained in mixed media, oils and acrylics, I shifted to Indo-Persian miniatures about seven years ago. The small scale and miniature medium were practical and safe to work with from my kitchen, whilst having my toddlers around. I practised miniature as a minor subject during my MA under Khalid Saeed Butt. However since 2015, I have continued my engagement with this medium, developing skills from informal online classes, and sessions led by experts based in Pakistan and India. I enjoy this medium due to its storytelling attributes, global appeal, and multi-layered capacity. It is not only a medium, but a fully fledged discipline where artists must make their own colours and materials while adapting to different skills. Patience is one of the key elements in miniature, due to its inherently slow processes. At this stage I am proficient enough to understand the chemistry of the medium and its controlled application. The use of a magnifying glass, gold, silver and natural pigments, traditional geometry, calligraphic lines, and a relationship to symbolism/mysticism are basics of this discipline, which are reflected throughout my paintings.
EVA: Could you introduce your upcoming Platform Commissions project that will be presented as part of the 40th EVA International in Autumn 2023?
AW: My Platform Commissions project continues on from an existing series of performative self-portraits that I included in THE NARROW GATE OF THE HERE-AND-NOW, an exhibition which traced urgent themes across IMMA’s thirty year period. I will be addressing Citizenship, one of the central themes within the 40th EVA International, through Indo-Persian miniature techniques; which are combined with questions of identity, estrangement, and loss which I interpret through performative guises and self-portraiture. The series will explore the mourning of the self and sense of home, reflecting on the human experience of displacement. I will be expressing the duality of cultural experiences of ‘home’ and ‘new home’. The series will aim to consider a search for Utopia through a process of self-exploration, and reflect on the challenges that I face in an in-between space.
EVA: Are there any particular research and development processes or approaches that you generally engage in when preparing for a new commission, or for the production of a new work?
AW: I am increasingly interested in Celtic Art and its symbolism, and building-up its relationship with Indo-Persian motifs. Therefore I am researching in this area to develop a new visual language that would be recognisable not only in Ireland or Pakistan, but also globally. Over the past few years I have been highly interested in the Book of Kells and Harry Clark, and responding to the visual vocabulary of these traditions.
EVA: Are you working towards any other upcoming projects, residences, or exhibitions currently?
AW: I have just finished working with curators’ Pluck Projects to produce a new body of work for Cork Midsummer Festival in June (2022), In The Name Of Shame, which explores female embodiment and cultures of shame in the context of Ireland and Pakistan. The experience of working with Pluck Projects has given me the confidence to expand the scale of my paintings and experiment with mediums. I will also be presenting work in upcoming exhibitions, including With Other Matter, Part Two curated by Naomi Draper at Roscommon Arts Centre in July and August (2022).
Amna Walayat is an artist specialising in traditional Neo-Indo-Persian miniature painting. Interested in the promotion of South Asian Art and Culture in Ireland and Europe, currently she is working on a community-based project South Asian Community Museum as Creative Producer in Residence with Cork County Council. Recent exhibitions include The Narrow Gate of Here and Now (IMMA, 2021-2022); 191 (RHA, 2021); and Dublin Arts and Human Rights Festival (Mill Theatre, 2021).