By Becky Benoit
For most of us, it’s difficult to see the beauty in a piece of plywood. But when local artist Uzma Nadeem sees the humble chunk of building material, she sees it with an artist’s discerning eye. From the whorls and striations of the wood come jewellike flowers, velvety leaves and trees that seem to shiver and dance with life.
Nadeem, a graduate of the prestigious Punjab University, isn’t limited to the usual tools of an artist’s trade – in her hands, the most everyday and mundane objects become pathways to beauty, from hairdryers to forks.Her artwork, a unique marriage of Pakistani and Canadian culture, has graced the cover of Northwords magazine, won the top bid in Volunteer Wood Buffalo’s Time Raiser auction, and appeared in numerous exhibitions from MacDonald Island to Keyano College.
Nadeem has been drawn to art from an early age. “My very early experience in art actually started in my childhood. I always wanted to find different ways and angles an object can be looked at. For that reason, I used to crop the images with my fingers. That has really helped to paint simpler ideas with a twist,” she explains. “When it was time to choose a career, I listened to my heart and picked up fine arts for my Bachelor’s [degree], and later on, for my Master’s.”
Nadeem is never afraid to try something new when it comes to creating her art, no matter how unorthodox. “Curiosity encourages me to try different things,” she says. “I am very comfortable trying different materials and surfaces for my artworks. It gives originality, depth and lots of texture to my paintings.”
As an artist, Nadeem is particularly inspired by Fort McMurray’s juxtaposition of the natural and the manmade. “The Fort McMurray landscape is a blend of natural beauty and human technology. Construction is a major part of what we see around us. This really inspires me to look at the bigger picture,” she explains. “Looking at the northern lights with the shimmering lights of the downtown bridge pole in the Athabasca River gives me goosebumps.”
Coming to Canada was not an easy journey for Nadeem, but she says it has influenced her artwork for the better. “All these challenging times and experiences have brought many changes in my style of painting, my inspirations and techniques,” she says. “Earlier my paintings were more symbolic but now, they are a blend of abstraction and symbolism. My palette is now more full of vibrant and metallic colours that bring shine and sparkle to my work, which really helps me show my gratitude for this place.”
Like Nadeem herself, her artwork is a beautiful and eclectic blend of the exotic and the familiar. “My recent inspirations are from here, but usually my colours and imagery are more from the East, somewhat following the footpaths of Mughal art,” she says. “Naturally, my art is a blend of Eastern and Western cultures.”