Sophiya Khwaja's Nooks Power
Sophiya Khwaja’s Solo Show Nooks of Power
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Until 12 June 2023, Tashkeel is hosting Nooks of Power, Pakistani artist Sophiya Khwaja‘s first solo exhibition in the Emirates. One has a chance to look at the collection of artworks Khwaja has created in the last 18 months, while participating in the Tashkeel Critical Practice Programme (CPP). 

Sophiya Khwaja, Dormer, 2023. From the Ambition series. Pencil, acrylic on paper. 30 x 30 x 90 cm.

The show’s aim is to explore the ways in which humans acquire, hoard, and unleash authoritative power, with Khwaja dissecting herself as “Specimen No.1”. The displayed art pieces (all executed on paper) are made using various techniques and mediums: pastels, digital prints, acrylics, thread, collage, tea-wash, and gouache. The artworks are divided into five series: Unicorn, Nose, Labour, Language, and Aspiration. Each of the series is accompanied by a short text written by the artist, in which she tells about images she had in her mind while creating the work in her studio.

Sophiya Khwaja, Layers of Limbo, 2023. Two artworks from the Memory series. Mixed media on paper. 30 x 40 cm each.

The Unicorn series meets power in an ambitious career. The Nose one recognises that power lies in achieving and exercising beauty. Labour sees power build up slowly over time through one’s constant efforts made to maintain and improve their situation and status. Language, the sculptural series, is focused on the loss of power, which happens when one loses their mother tongue, or rather on the loss of access to the knowledge, might, and identity of their people. In the Aspiration series, Khwaja explores the power that lies behind our hope of achieving and wanting more; behind the ways in which our mind documents experiences and how we use these memories to fulfill this never-ending want for more.

Sophiya Khwaja, Layers of Limbo (one of the artworks), 2023. Two artworks from the Memory series. Mixed media on paper. 30 x 40 cm each.

About the artist

Sophiya Khwaja (b. 1982, Pakistan) is a visual artist residing in Dubai. In 2003, she received her BFA degree in Printmaking from the National College of Arts (Lahore, Pakistan), and in 2007, she graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design (Providence, RI, USA) with a  MFA degree. The artist taught printmaking at the National College of Arts as an Assistant Professor for a number of years. Later she moved to Dubai as the CEO of a marketing agency, leading the company’s offices in both Dubai and Pakistan.   

In her work, Khwaja explores the spaces and places traditionally inhabited by women and the different ways, compromises, attitudes, and personalities that they adopt to navigate them. The artist focuses on the themes of domesticity, its politics, hierarchy, power struggles, desires and a mid-life crisis.

Khwaja has received a number of grants and awards which include Selected Artist, Campus Art, 5.0 Core Program (Dubai, UAE) (2017); Artist in Residence, Vermont Studio Center (Johnson, VT, USA) (2016); ERR Artist in Residence, Santa Fe Art Institute (Santa Fe, NM, USA) (2013); Fulbright Fellowship, Rhode Island School of Design (Providence, RI, USA) (2005-07), and others.

The artist has her works displayed in numerous group exhibitions: Contemporary Master Drawings, Cade Tompkins Projects (Providence, RI, USA) (2018); Open Studio, Project Space Art Jameel (Dubai, UAE) (2017); Rock, Paper, Scissors, HKBU Center (Doha, Qatar) (2015); 1st International Print Biennial (Karachi, Pakistan) (2014);  Colors per al Planeta, Council of Europe Headquarters (Strasbourg, France) (2013); Colors per al Planeta, UNESCO-Andorra Art Camp (Ordino, Andorra) (2012); Soul of Pakistan, ArtInk Gallery (Singapore) (2011); Invited Artist, 5th International Printmaking Biennial of Douro, (Portugal) (2010); and many others. Khwaja’s art pieces are also featured in such permanent collections as Yale University Robert B. Haas Family Arts Library (New Haven, CT, USA); UNESCO-Andorra Collection (Ordino, Andorra); Duoro Biennial Printmaking Collection (Duoro, Portugal); USEFP Permanent Collection (Islamabad, Pakistan); and others.

To learn more about Nooks of Power, please visit the show’s official web page.

You might also be interested in visiting The Storyteller curated by Behrang Samadzadegan