Farina Alam's critique is engaged with issues of boundaries, the post-colonial state and nationhood.
The works on paper are in traditonal & contemporary print practise as well as the drawn form. She is interested in the dynamic of political relationships between religion and governance. Portrayal of an "Islamic Identity" as her key point of research refers to evocative images of the east in art history & Western media's focus on the Arab world to personal narratives from her dual national status as a British Pakistani.
Alams’ process of detailed mark making is a deliberate effort to disseminate a response to a political and religious identity. Engaged in this way, the artist places words and symbols within a laboriously conceived graphic framework.
Her drawings are composed of countless diminuitive quill marks, like a personal naqsha or code. She considers the act as an homage to the lexicon approach of craftsman,poets,writers and artists working under the glare of Pakistani militia and radical religious autocrats.
A large part of her life was spent in Karachi-where an acute awareness of social tension became manifest in the local street graffitti voicing anti-imperial slogans & jihadist propaganda. Using Arabic, Urdu and English text, Alam looks at how cultural,religious and political idioms permeate popular language to dictate notions of Islamic doctrine. A concept attained or lost in cross-translation.
The illustrative opulence of Ferdausi's "Shanameh," and Moghul miniature paintings are an aesthetic tradition that influence much of her work.
"Pin Story" consists of a collection of screen prints, drawings and a journal kept by the artist during her college years at Slade School of Fine Art.
"Bomb Hearts" were produced as part of a printmaking residency in Dogliani, Northern Italy. Digitally manipulated images of WMD (used in the US invasion of Afghanistan 2001-14) were designed into templates for Afghani carpets. Photoetched onto shaped zinc plates and printed in an exclusive edition for Associazione Piemontese Arte Turin.
The medium of drawing has been central to her process of image making since 2007. "Rishta" or the dowry drawings is the title for the first in the collection.The style refers to the laborious detail of South Asian miniature paintings. The artist points to "rishta" or the contractual nature of arranged marriages by an exaggerated wedding armor in "Dhulan"; the serpent like phallic cartoons coiling through the bridal trousseau in "Ruby red choker."
"Ara" is a continuation of the same theme.
"Sohna Gota goddess" creates "Parindha"(bird) as the central protagonist that dominates over densely worked layers of gold and red-which represents the "goddess."
Ana drawings (meaning virtuous, forbearing woman in Arabic) were part of a larger solo retrospect by the artist at the Koel Gallery Karachi in 2011.
Mai Kolachi(meaning lady of Kolachi) was a fisherwoman, upon who modern day Karachi is named after.
In My Kolachi Alam is interested in how language used by the western media highlights an immediate relationship to an image. The feeding ground for her research is rooted in Pakistan and its chequered existence as a nation strained by a power battle between the army, the feudals, and the Islamic fundamentalists. Google images, the printed word and visits to her home town fuel the works on paper.
The project is host to a series of influences picked from arab literary symbolism, local Pakistani craftsmanship and a play of words.
As a Pakistani, the undercurrent of national political anxiety remains central to her drawings.
Farina Alam has exhibited with John Martin of London UK, Koel Gallery Karachi Pakistan,London Print Studio London UK. And participated in Master Drawings London 2008, Arte Fiera Bologna 2009, and Multiplied contemporary editions fair at Christies 2014.
Born 1971 in Karachi Pakistan, Alam attained a BFA at the Indus School of Art and Architecture in Karachi Pakistan in 1996. She immigrated to England in 1998 where she studied at the Slade School of Fine Art UCL and completed her Masters of Media in Fine Art in 2000. Alam currently lives and works in London.
Farina Alam has previously hosted identity related art based projects for the British Council London, the Serpentine Art Gallery and Whitechapel Art Gallery. Culminating in an extensive output of digital images on self-representation amongst immigrant, refugee and youth communities from Albania, Bangladesh,Pakistan, Caribean and the UK.