Isn’t it wonderful when you can experience art that speaks volumes about its creator? Siddiqa Juma’s artwork does just that! Vibrant dashes of colour that proclaim her effervescent personality combine with a theme that runs through all her works – unity. Drawing inspiration from her rich cultural and religious heritage and her love for observing what she calls the miracles of the everyday, Siddiqa’s contemporary style speaks of a universal spirituality, one that brings people together and erases divisions. Artflute’s Sridevi Padmanabhan caught up with the talented artist to get her take on what art means to her.
It’s always interesting to know about how an artist’s background has influenced his art? How did where you grew up and the experiences you’ve had shaped the art you make?
My fascination with the concept of unity is what has shaped my art. Whether it is between religions or within them, divisions are constantly being made. This really upsets me. There are a lot of divisions even within my own faith. So what I am trying to do is to bring people together with my art. For instance, my piece about diversity is about showing that we can all exist in one space and that we don’t need divisions. I come from an Islamic background of Asian origin and class and status is important in those societies. My biggest inspiration is
the idea of uniting people.
Do you have any studio rituals?
I do like to have noise when I am working. I cannot work in silence. There is always some music going on or the radio. Being a mother comes first. So my studio is in my house and it’s a little bit crazy. I could be cooking and then will go and paint and then do something else and again paint a while. I don’t shut myself off because I want art to be part of my everyday life. I don’t want it to be only one part of it but to be integrated into my life. I have a studio in my garden but I invariably paint in my house simply because that’s where all the action is!
Looking back at your trajectory as an artist, how would you say your work has developed?
When you start off, you try and perfect techniques but as you grow, the message of the painting and of what you’re trying to say assumes paramount importance. Not focusing on techniques means you give up on the idea of perfection and making it right. As I’ve grown I realize there is no right or wrong and perfection is only for God. I am far more comfortable with my art now and very interested in capturing what I’m trying to say on canvas.
What was the first artwork you sold? How did it make you feel?
I loved it when my work sold for charity. It makes me feel elated.
I had been painting for the past 5-6 years but had just not exhibited my work simply because I was scared that people won’t like it. I used to donate a lot of my paintings to be auctioned for charity and it was during one of these times that the organiser of the auction asked me to bring 2-3 pieces of my work to exhibit. I was very hesitant but he wouldn’t take no for an answer. A famous calligrapher and artist, Samir Malik saw my work there and was impressed enough by it to tell me that I was being selfish to keep the art I make to myself. He is someone who has become more than a brother to me now and has helped me transform from being a secret artist to one who takes her work out there.
What has been the most memorable compliment you’ve received for your work?
I sold a painting called Circumambulation to two sisters who were setting up house together and had saved money over a long time to buy art. They had been looking for art for a few months when they came across my art. They came all the way from east London to my house and said to me, “The reason why we want to buy your art is because it speaks about who we are.” They were British Muslims and while they wanted Islamic art on their walls they did not want the same art that their parents had. It just didn’t speak about them. For me the biggest compliment was that my art said something about them and who they were.
What is the most challenging aspect of being an artist?
Coming from an Asian background, people think that you’re making art because you couldn’t become a doctor. They don’t consider it a real profession. These perceptions mattered to me when I was 20, but now I am so happy that I am an artist.
What can we look forward to from you next?
I am pushing the boundaries when it comes to creating unity. I am also finding ways to create art not only in 2D but also in 3D, sculptures and so on. Besides this, my next exhibition – the Haj exhibition which will be held either in September or October this year.