Behind the Scenes with Zarah Hussain

The artist talks about creativity, her ideal work setting, and more

May 16, 2019

Featured artists

Zarah Hussain

In our series Behind the Scenes, artists answer questions about their creative process, philosophy, and more. This installment features Zarah Hussain, a British Pakistani artist who works at the intersection of science and spirituality, combining contemporary digital art with rigorous training in traditional hand-drawn Islamic geometry. You can see our exclusive commission, Transcender, here. (Read our other exclusive interviews with artists here.)

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

Rejection is never personal. No matter how many times you are rejected, just get up and carry on.

What five things do you have in your studio at all times?

1) Plenty of paper, 2) technical pencils, 3) a compass, 4) rulers, and 5) plenty of tea!

What’s one of your favorite works of art?

Tomb of Itimad-ud-Daula in the city of Agra, India. This is often regarded as a draft for the Taj Mahal, but it’s a beautiful building in its own right. It has so much richness and detail in it, like an exquisite jewelry box. A place that is well worth visiting.

Would you rather have not enough to do with your day or too much?

I would always rather have too much to do than too little. For me, it’s really important to always be working and self-generating new ideas and pathways. It’s important to always be working, even if you haven’t got deadlines or exhibitions coming up. Trying to do some work every day is important; that is how you evolve and develop.

What would you be if you weren’t an artist?

I can’t imagine not being creative, so I think I’d like to be a novelist.

What do you think is the age at which people are at their most creative?

I believe that creativity is self-generated to some extent. I think if you’re a creative person it’s there all the time. At some points in your life, it can be latent and slowed down, and at other times, it can flourish and you can be very productive.

What’s an image of yourself that makes you feel old?

What’s your ideal work setting?

My ideal work setting is bright with lots of light. At my desk, I have a window that looks out onto the street. It’s nice to look up occasionally and see people walking dogs or mums collecting their kids from school. I also look out onto trees; hearing the birds and seeing the seasons changing is important to me. Working as an artist can be isolating, so I like to be in a space where I feel connected to the world.

How would you describe your subject matter or the content of your work?

I was trained in Islamic art, and within that field, I specialised in the making of traditional hand-drawn geometry. I like to combine traditional geometric patterns with contemporary digital art. My practice is broad, and within the field of geometric art, I create paintings, sculptures, and animations.

Send an image that makes you want to work for hours on end.

I love the seaside. It’s really inspiring and it helps me to unwind and relax, which in turn gives me the energy to work for hours on end.

What advice do you wish you could have given to yourself ten years ago?

Don’t worry so much. Everything will work out just fine.

Is it better for an artist to be an optimist or a pessimist?

I think you have to be an optimist. It’s tough out there, so I think a sunny disposition is helpful.

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