Celebrating Heritage and Culture with R.M.Naeem


This Father’s Day, Visual Artist R. M. Naeem opens up to Sunday about his style choices, passion for art and finding the balance to spend time with his boys. PsssT! WE love the Shahnameh outfits worn by all three males in this shoot.

If you were to identify your work into a genre, what would it be?

I am a painter, but I believe film is something in which all the art forms merge together. Film is an extension of multiple art forms. It is a form that can successfully provide you a platform which can express your creative thought process. For example, we only had images first and we wished they could move and then it was the same with sound and architecture. Only inspiration of visual art forms can create a film, which we can call a master piece.

What were your earliest inspirations an as artist?

My earliest inspirations were cinema and billboard painters that belong to my home town (Mirpur Khas, Sindh) where I grew up. I consider those artists as my first teachers.

How do you think Pakistani art has evolved over the years?

If art work can be exhibited more in our local galleries it can be a factor of intellectual growth, awareness and understanding of art socially. Due to acceptance of Pakistani artist globally, some artists are benefitting financially, but I don’t think it has achieved what it should have. While our economic and political prospects are not very bright, in this scenario having a positive role from the art community is essential to bring positive change.

Do you think art has any boundaries?

Art does not have any boundaries. I believe your identity forms through the art and literature which you are exposed to.

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Amongst your work, is there any art piece which is very close to your heart?

I thoroughly enjoy the process of art. I feel that the reaction of the viewer is also a part of my creative process. The final product has it’s own entity, which can be interacted with.

How do you think you being an artist falls in line with Shahnameh’s core philosophy of reviving the subcontinental heritage?

The development and progress of nations depends strongly on how they preserve their historical and cultural history. We have a strong history, but unfortunately we got disconnected with what was our art and culture due to the misunderstanding of politics and religion in our society. Brands such as Shahnameh are doing a great job in bridging that gap and highlighting traditional values with a contemporary vision, which is something artist have been striving to accomplish.

Being an educationist and a globally acclaimed practicing artist, do you think there is a relation between fashion and art?

Couture is not a new phenomenon; it was always present in our culture and tradition. Fashion is somewhat a human need and necessity. It is a statement and it is not confined to clothes. It is how an individual is perceived in his or her environment. As an artist, you should have a style statement and it should change over time. We constantly need to evolve and we need to understand that culture is not static but it changes with time and so does fashion.

What is your opinion on brands playing a role in promoting culture and heritage in Pakistan?

Pakistan is a very small region in terms of fashion. Fashion is itself a complete art form and this time period is not enough for the prosperity of this kind of genre. For a country like Pakistan, which has been going through political turmoil, fashion cannot develop in merely the time span of 50 years. As far as brands that are concerned in creating their niche with historical identity such as Shahnameh and others, they are opening a window through the past.

How do you define your personal style in terms of your wardrobe?

I am not one of those who will wear a brand’s logo across his chest.  My wardrobe is not very fixed and is very functional. I used to wear bold colors and patterned shirts years ago when they were not acceptable. I believe artists have to be daring and should not be conformists. Hence an artist’s wardrobe should be dynamic. Versatility is the key.

As a father, how supporting will you be if your sons also want to pursue a career in arts? What was your father’s reaction when you chose to be an artist?

In my opinion, life itself is art. Your every second should be utilized wisely and creatively. I would totally support it if my sons opt for any discipline of art. For me, an artist is a responsible individual with a visionary attitude so whatever field they choose they should act sensitively. My father was totally against it when I decided to pursue my career as an artist. Now the media can play a helpful role in awareness regarding careers in the field of arts because our parents were reluctant towards careers in arts due to the misinterpretation of this field.

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Do you have a signature style when it comes to your art?

My art is my intellectual biography. For me art is not about portraying something on the surface but going beyond that and recurrence into the thought process that gave birth to the art piece.

One thing that is always on your side table:

My cell phone is always there. It has everything including my meeting schedules, my drawings, readings and more. I basically manage everything on my phone.

Do you think your attire defines you as an individual?

People create their perceptions about you by looking at you before you have even said a word, so yes, absolutely.

How do you balance your personal life with work demands?

My wife is an artist and my children are growing up in a very active creative environment. So, my family is very understanding and supportive.

As an artist, how are you able to find the balance between market demands and trends and your creativity and personal aesthetic?

I don’t follow market demands and trends. We should follow our heart and create whatever we want to, and the market will acknowledge and follow.

As a practicing artist and a teacher, what would be your advice for upcoming artists?

The younger generation should associate their future with their country and they should take pride in exhibiting their work at home, too. They should focus on promoting optimistic ideas instead of going abroad and selling negativity about their country.

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