A confluence of art and architecture

Architect, urban planner and artist Zoya Khan in a tête-à-tête with Kashmir Ink correspondent Saqib Malik talks about her work and much more
A confluence of art and architecture
Representational Pic

Q) What sort of art form are you associated with?

Growing up in Kashmir has greatly influenced my intellectual curiosity, and from an early age I was interested in understanding how the situation in Kashmir in regard to its physical attributes and cultural ethos shape the lives of people, and how it conditions social behaviour which in turn influences how we collectively shape and interact with the built environment. A large chunk of my work is mixed media with digital collages of heritage houses of Kashmir. I feel drawing is an excellent way to observe and analyse your surroundings and it has really helped me grow as an architect.

Representational Pic

Q) What themes do you focus on in your artwork?

My works are heavily influenced by my understanding of how human beings interact with their built environment & my key areas of interest are the built heritage and vernacular building traditions of Kashmir. The contrast between particular and universal, between individual and collective, emerges from the city’s construction - it’s architecture, that is the central theme of my works.

Q) What do you think is your major success as an artist?

I believe that collectively we can achieve more, and communication paired with risk taking ability can help address complex issues. My engagement with the local communities and commitment to understanding the cultural fabric of my city has resulted in an extensive creative photographic documentation exercise in the form of a series - Houses of Kashmir, which I have displayed at multiple exhibitions and has been well-received locally as well as internationally. I’d like to think of it as an important cataloguing exercise of fast-disappearing heritage houses – the actual jewels of our city that face neglect and tremendous developmental pressure.

Q) How much does Kashmir reflect in your art ?

Being an architect and a Kashmiri – my works usually tend to highlight some aspect or the other that I have absorbed from my immediate environment, be it my understanding of colours I’ve learnt from the changing seasons, the motifs and fine craftsmanship of the Kashmiri karigar I see reflected in everyday objects like walnut wood furniture and shawls around me or a constant fascination for the building and craft traditions of the city.

Q) You are also a qualified architect, how does that reflect in your work?

Yes, I am an architect and a city planner. Towards the end of my architectural education, I began to appreciate the built environment at the socio-economic and political level. I further began to realize that “urban” was the more appropriate epistemological category to understand architecture and built environment. This led me to pursue a postgraduate degree in Urban & Regional planning at CEPT University, Ahmedabad. I have recently finished my second masters at Oxford Brookes University in International architectural regeneration and Development under a fully funded Chevening scholarship. For me, my creative expression as an artist and my professional training go hand in hand and the long-term vision is to dwell deeper into the domain of architectural & cultural heritage of Kashmir at large, research it thoroughly and provide solutions to the challenges it faces.

Q) Do you think social media has impacted modern art and architecture?

Social media has changed the way people interact with artists and consume information especially in the pandemic. The engagement has increased greatly and there are a plethora of options in the virtual space. There’s something for everyone. It has also now become possible for people to buy affordable art on platforms such as Instagram and Etsy etc. I am both a seller and buyer and it has been an enjoyable and simple process.

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