Anum Farooq: The Universal Language of Art

Anum Farooq: The Universal Language of Art

Anum Farooq is an outstanding creative personality. Her pictures evoke deep feelings of wistfulness and longing for a better world. In her practice, she aims to express her support to courageous people, or somehow react at prominent events. Anum gives the spectator the possibility to explore a magical combination of colours and feelings.

Anum’s work depicts a great knowledge on how the reflections of hatred and violence eat out humanity, or how the sunrays of kindness and generosity create a bright future for us. Anum also writes poems and essays where she stands for justice, loyalty, and compassion. In this interview, I have spoked with Anum about her perceptions regarding how a creative personality may survive in this world and remain pure. 

When did Anum Farooq first have the desire to become an artist? 

I wanted to be an artist as a child, as the canvas allowed me to communicate from the ‘inside’. I received a certificate from the Mayor of Enfield as a twelve-year-old for one of my paintings. To pursue art academically would’ve been a dream, unfortunately, the Art A-Level option clashed in the timetable with my Chemistry A-Level, thus I had to become a self-taught artist. I am still learning art, it has become a lifelong learning journey!

How easy is it for a gifted artist to get promoted? 

I have never actually sold a painting! I feel too shy and embarrassed as I just paint very freely and with passion, and essentially have no idea how to commercialize my artwork. However, I think I am at a stage where I feel confident enough to create in-depth artwork and utilise it to make positive changes.

I believe art is a universal language and I am really keen to utilise my artwork for intracultural and cross border dialogue. Some examples of my artwork have included exploring interfaith aspects, as well as a focus on humanity and nature. I love travelling so I hope to have a global audience. 

In the description of the painting Red Reflections, you claimed to hate the red colour and use it as the emotional response to social injustice. What’s your message in this picture?

Anum Farooq - Red Reflections

I feel deeply when I read of humanity in crisis around the world, where needless acts of injustice and oppression have occurred. This painting is a red teardrop, reflected in the sea of injustice and is painted using deep hues of red. Red is such a powerful, evocative colour. 

Injustice makes one weep tears of blood and anger. The colour makes me feel really uncomfortable and at times becomes a bold reminder of global injustices. 

My message in this picture is the sound of silent screams against global injustice, and to not ignore it but to take a stand for justice. 

What if we had the courage to become a David against the Goliath of the times? Perhaps, it is the collective conscience asking, why were we silent against global social injustice? Where was our advocacy then? Were our comfort zones a priority or the welfare of humanity? 

Sometimes you depict elements of nature, trees, and flowers, and they make a deep impact on the emotional understanding of your art. How do you use primordial symbols to talk about things that matter?

I have been focussing on the raindrop, teardrop and peal drop-like symbol for many years, and I am still learning. 

Influences such as leaf shapes, the graceful movement of the tree branches, the beauty in the colour of flowers and their varying hues are never-ending explorations. I feel very soothed and comforted in nature, I will go exploring in the forest, climb a mountain, walk in the waves or raise my eyes to the sky. 

There are so many patterns to observe and through reflections in nature, I distil those themes in my artwork. For instance, my painting Certainty (Oil on Canvas, circa 2011) is focused on patterns in nature; light overcoming darkness, rain from the clouds cleansing, nourishing and healing the Earth. Vulnerable saplings blooming with time, and subtle droplets of water bringing forth strong roots and natural justice. These natural themes are also linked to the ‘our journey’ of life, with challenges and miracles yet certainty that destiny and truth will triumph.

Roots of Courage (Gouache on Canvas, circa 2021) is directly influenced by the interconnection of roots of trees and furthered experimented with links to human perspectives such as finding courage and achieving our dreams, despite the turbulence of time and events, just as roots remain grounded in the earth. That there is diversity in humanity, yet our roots are interconnected. That despite the ever-changing times, we can stand with courage and integrity, towards a brighter horizon of hopes and dreams 

Anum Farooq - Roots of Courage

Each of your paintings contains a story. But could you share the one that impressed you most?

When I was about eleven years old, I went to the library and saw a bunch of ladies engaged in a lace-making session, in the background was a beautiful quilt. I approached one of the ladies and asked her if I could take part. As the sessions were during school hours, she agreed to meet me on the weekends or after school, and she began to teach me how to quilt. We cut up diamond paper shapes and used these to cut out fabrics for our quilt. 

During this process, this “angel woman” pushed me to think for myself, she asked me what I believed and why? To answer her questions, I had to read furiously, getting through a lot of books in the library. We debated aplenty of times and this process taught me how to think.

She took me to watch open-air Shakespeare theatre plays on the grounds of Forty Hall, Enfield. She took me along to take part in art competitions. She took me along to visit garden art galleries near Camden. We went for walks in the Kew Gardens. So I became an explorer as a child and was confident enough to pursue art, and keep learning about it.

The picture Broken Waves claims to be a representation of the bad human impact made on the environment. Could you share your thoughts about that? 

Broken Waves contained a simple background of a serene ocean, and the foreground an abstract representation of the human impact on the environment through symbolism. For instance, the roots of the blood of the wildlife dying due to the disruption of the ocean ecosystem and sanctuary, and I hope to evoke the emotion of loneliness. Not felt by humans, but felt by the oceans, seas and rivers of the world whose eco-systems are disrupted due to human actions, however meaningless they are perceived to be. Yet they have an impact and subsequent consequences.

I think increasingly in the future, art would be a great advocate for the environment. In fact, a variant of this already exists in eco-art (ecological art). I really do believe that the world can be changed and the environment protected by humans understanding the message and advocacy contained in the artworks. An example that stands out to me is of the Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai, and his infamous painting The Great Wave off Kanagawa, which is somewhat iconic in portraying the synergy between the environment and how it’s impacted by humans.

You describe your photography as the journey between two worlds. What is your favourite collection? 

Anum Farooq - Root Light

My favourite photograph is called Zephyr Nostalgia, which is an exploration of sound and colour. One of my most favourite sounds is hearing laughter in the wind. It evokes a distant memory of running with and against the wind, as a child hands outstretched, and bursting into peals of laughter at the simple joy of it.

In terms of a favourite collection, it is the Light Movements. It contains raw, authentic photographs capturing moments of light from around the world. Sometimes the photographs have been taken whilst I’ve been travelling at great speed so they are blurry and slightly grainy. This adds to their authenticity in being a part of life. I didn’t want to capture “perfect” shots, because often lights come into our lives in our moments of brokenness. So, I wanted this collection, which I am still working on to be related to that raw, movement of light into human lives around the world.

You participated in the Hope and Poverty exhibition. What attracted you most to the concept of this event?

When I was younger, through my travels I saw poignant examples of poverty which deeply touched me as a child. Through this exhibition, I hoped to make a difference and donated my paintings to an orphanage in the Philippines. I also think the themes of poverty and hope are strongly related, and often great examples of success are born through socio-economic deprived backgrounds. Again, it is also about the power of art to change the world for the better, which is something I strongly believe in. Alongside this, I also worked on the impact of culture and faith on gender issues such as women’s access to resources and work in liaison with the Tony Bair Faith Foundation.

You also exhibited your art pieces in Tower Hamlets Library and the Red Gallery. What were your impressions after the exhibition?

Those exhibitions were related to interfaith themes and my afterthoughts were to continue the exploration of interfaith work through my art. I reflected on the many conservations I had to develop the artwork for those exhibitions, as well deep and meaningful interfaith texts that I had read. However, I had a hiatus for nearly a decade and am hoping to re-engage with this.

You write poems. Could you tell me how it started and what are your plans in this direction?

I started writing poetry from age twelve and it began with exploring my life experiences and the world around me. Poetry allowed me to express my emotions, but also explore the dichotomy between the books I read and the world that I saw in reality. As a child, I was very idealistic and could not understand why the world did not follow the rules in the books. 

My poems were archived in scraps of paper with childlike writing, stored in little files, kept in boxes in old rooms of what was once home. 

Some poems with time became typed and copies were made to archive them digitally with the intention of returning back and writing them out by hand again to compile a handwritten anthology. I hope to put my poems in a book to be called the Anthology of a Searcher, let’s see how that goes. 

You are successful in every area you try whether it is art or educational path. Talking about the latest, what attracts you to it? 

That’s very kind, thank you. I am very much interested in holistic education. In terms of education and pedagogy, there are many, many valuable and worthy avenues of exploration. I am keen to utilize personalized learning which focuses on the individual learner needs, whether that is a student or professional development for educators. 

I am also learning more about education in a holistic sense looking at an emphasis on reflection and values-driven instruction to help learners achieve both academically and in terms of character development. Recently, I completed a group research on Vygotsky’s sociocultural theory, and a particular phrase stands out “through others, we become ourselves”.

You have just raised a global abstract art open call for an international digital exhibition “Compassionate women: kindness in action”. Could you tell more about the concept of global healing through the arts?

The current times, especially with the Covid-19 have been quite traumatic globally and have further isolated humans. Art has a great role in healing humanity globally, and this art project is one part of this journey. We are seeing a zeitgeist in the world. We are also seeing a greater awareness of the challenges and obstacles that women are facing. 

There are more open and honest conversations about what life is like for women around the world. This is a unique opportunity to participate in an international digital exhibition with a focus on “women and compassion”. How kindness in action has changed the lives of women globally? The meaningful impact of compassion in transforming destinies for the better.

This is an opportunity for the women of the nation to have a conversation through art about their experiences in a global arena. The impact of acts of compassion that they have received or given. What change did it bring about in their lives or of others? How did they empower themselves and others through compassion?

How could you describe the spirit of this epoch? 

Perhaps as a journey in all, it’s different forms, whether that’s a spiritual journey, a physical journey between places or a journey of thoughts to develop our thinking. The spirit of this epoch, I think is a journey with its challenges and miracles. I believe we are between two worlds, the transient, temporary one of now and an everlasting one of the hereafter. 

Written by Anastasiia Shkuro

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