From Aeronautics to Miniatures and everything in between

From Aeronautics to Miniatures and everything in between

BY ANANT ART JANUARY 31, 2018

Interview with Yasir Waqas

By Ria Sarkar

Yasir Waqas

A trained GPL Pilot, Yasir Waqas has made the most peculiar jump from flying aircrafts to creating artworks. After realising that art was his true passion, he pursued a Bachelor of Fine Arts from National College of Art, Lahore where he excelled in Miniature Painting. His works are a riveting blend of his past profession mixed with his love for Miniatures. The preoccupation with flight has been a constant in his life throughout, but being a pilot was restraining him; creating limitations of the kind that he could not break. Art gave him the means to unleash his creativity and fly closer towards his dream. Adding to NCAs rich heritage of Contemporary Miniaturists, Yasir has developed a unique visual language that revolves around aeronautically inspired imagery featuring mandalas and birds with shattered exoskeletons.

In a candid interview, Yasir talks about the significance behind his works.

Ria Sarkar: Your works reveal an attraction towards airplanes and their parts and you use them in quite novel ways. When did this fascination begin and how?

Yasir Waqas: This fascination actually began quite early in my childhood. My father was an aircraft mechanic; I grew up in a household where it was not feasible for my parents to afford toys for me and my siblings. To compensate for that, my father used to bring spare parts of aeroplanes from work as toys for us.

It deepens and gets darker like a coastal shelf

Title: It deepens and gets darker like a coastal shelf
Medium: Gouache, silver and gold leaf on 14 layers of Wasli
Size: 33 x 43 x 2 cm
Year: 2017
Image courtesy: artist

RS: One of the recurring elements in your work is the sinister depiction of birds. They dont sing, fly, nest or do anything that you would normally associate with birds. Instead, they are all shown to be injured and mutilated. What is the significance behind this?

YW: The iconography of birds in traditional tales, general print media, and art is used to depict all that is good about life: happiness, freedom, glory of flight etc. I, for one, see that as only one of the many possible aspects related to birds. There is more to a birds life than just nesting, flying or singing. I prefer not to see the aspects shown in an ideally constructed situation but rather take the line which is closer to reality or one may say, non-ideal.

RS: The birds in your works are also totally disconnected from their natural habitat and seem to be trapped / searching for freedom. What do they represent?

YW: This basically highlights the conflict of the innate, something that is natural; with the implanted, which is something that has been inculcated or has been forced down ones throat by society. These implanted values take us away from our natural setting, and put us in conflict with our pre-existing natural disposition, resulting in a desolation of both the subject and the object.

My works are based on a combination of my innate desires, my choices and my interests running parallel to them, all of which are in conflict with implanted ideas and societys inculcated version of right and wrong. There exists a polarity and dichotomy between the two; as shown in my works.

Gouache on Wasli

Title: It must be grey
Medium: Gouache on Wasli
Size: 30 x 52 cm
Year: 2014
Image courtesy: artist

Wings and Weight

Title: Wings and Weight
Medium: Gouache, wings on Wasli
Size: 53 x 67 cm
Year: 2013
Image courtesy: artist

RS: You have said that you were fond of airplanes as a child, however, your works give the impression that youve become disillusioned with the idea of flying itself. What made you depict the notion of flight with such macabre undertones?

YW: No, I would not say I am disillusioned with the idea of flying but rather with showing only the ideal aspects of a particular thing. As an aircraft mechanic, my father looked up to his seniors, mainly pilots. For him, being a pilot was the epitome of success and heroism, and encompassed all that one could ask for. Consequently, he wanted me to become a professional pilot and the notion was sold to me right from childhood, shown in the grandest cloaks; a utopian dream. The idea of being a pilot initially charmed me, and I bought it. I flew aeroplanes for a while and completed my GPL training. During the course, I realised I love to fly but for me, being a pilot would be equivalent to being a chauffeur. Someone who loves driving may not want to become a driver. In the same way, I felt cheated when I became a pilot and felt that I had been sold a lie.

RS: Why do you use mandalas in your work? What is the correlation between mandalas, birds and exoskeletons all of which seem to occur together in many of your works?

YW: Ive often noticed that to prove a point, you have to either rely on an event in the past that guides you to walk an entirely new path; or you can run a series of new events altogether. An example of this is the life of Buddha, largely celebrated because of his ideology that each shall attain perfection by walking his/her own path. He chose his path despite the societal and social institutional pressure so that he could live the life that he envisioned. In order to accomplish this, he had to go through several stages of perseverance. Through the use of mandalas in my imagery, I am highlighting those stages or steps one takes, or ought to take, against societys expected norms and resist conforming to the notion of what should be. These mandalas function as the route map to achieve nirvana.

Aeronautics-Miniatures

Title: To that which is endless as it was beginning less
Medium: Gouache on 14 layers of wasli
Size: 33 x 51 x 2 cm
Year: 2017
Image courtesy: artist

RS: What is your intention behind exploring the conflict between the artificial (man-made) and the natural?

YW: The intention is to simply exhibit the notion that natural and artificial are complete entities in their own right and no parallel needs to be drawn to see one as superior to the other; both can coexist but they hinder the qualities of the other when made to do so. The natural represents an idea which is complete and the artificial represents an idea incorporated into the original, but by pitting them together it makes the outcome impure. For instance, aeroplanes and birds are often shown together in imagery but both are ruined when brought into contact.

RS: Do you think your works address the fight or flight response? If yes, then what is your interpretation?

YW: Yes, not entirely, but it does. The birds, and in general the whole dialogue or debate in my work is a representation of the flight response one takes when faced by an eminent threat. I find it highly important to mention that the need to flee not only applicable in face of a threat, but it is commonly felt when things are imposed against ones wishes, so much so that one feels like a prisoner in their own world and the act of living becomes an act of fleeing instead.

RS: What gave you the idea of incorporating found objects like engine parts into your works?

YW: Since childhood I was exposed to engines and their parts and used them as toys for recreation. Engine parts have always fascinated me because they take me back to the days of adolescence and innocence, while at the same time representing a trap in the shape of an engine which I fled from. Moreover, it is highly relevant with the artificial and flight aspect in my work.

Aeronautics-Miniatures

Title: Untitled
Medium: Gouache on Wasli
Size: 34 x 54 cm
Year: 2013
Image courtesy: artist

Aeronautics-Miniatures

Title: You need enough light to see the shadows
Medium: Ball point and pencil on Wasli
Size: 33 x 53 cm
Year: 2013
Image courtesy: artist

RS: Bold background colours teamed with dark imagery and half finished drawings create a constant sense of dialogue in your works. Is there any specific question that you are addressing?

YW: I tend to keep the palette as bright as I can, with the intention to make it aesthetically pleasing and primarily for the purpose of alluring those who view it from afar. Those colours create a seducing effect, generating a certain charm which brings the beholder towards it and with each step a layer of the work unravels itself. Eventually when all the layers are revealed, the beholder sees the incomplete drawings and grotesque imagery, representing the incompleteness within; instilling the idea of a false utopia. In this manner, a silent dialogue ensues across the multiple layers in my works, each step representing transition and transcendence, slowly elevating us to our chosen path.

Painting with exquisite skill, Yasir uses the metaphor of birds to express certain inner conflicts that everyone faces in their day-to-day lives. His birds have wings that allow them to fly, but they are not free; while on the other hand mandalas in the backdrop represent a route map to freedom. Much like reality, when faced with a conundrum we all have the means to break free from our minds cage, but are occasionally unable to do so due to invisible shackles holding us down. Having gone through a lot of conflict, confusion and emotional turmoil himself, he loves exploring these clashes that happen within all of us through his works.

Yasir Waqas work The Merchant who brought him linen will be on view at India Art Fair 2018 from 9th-12th February. For more information about the Art Fair follow the link below.

Anant Art @ IAF Exhibition Page

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