– Spring/Summer 2018

In Conversation with Rasheed Araeen

Nick Aikens

Rasheed Araeen, Opus F3, 2014, acrylic on canvas, 160 x 160 cm. Courtesy the artist

Nick Aikens: In Professor Majnoon Gorakhpuri’s article ‘Why Art?’ published in Dawn, a Karachi newspaper, in February 1976, he opens with the statement: ‘Art is the expression of beauty.’ You wrote a response, taking him to task over this definition of art, saying that the meaning of art must be finely attuned to the realities of the present. So, I wonder, forty years after that text was written, how would you describe the meaning of art?

Rasheed Araeen: I would still define the meaning of art in terms of the production of beauty. I know this does not answer your question, because we will have to first ask ourselves what we mean by ‘beauty’. Who defines it? My response to Majnoon Gorakhpuri (who was a highly respected, eminent literary critic of Urdu literature) was to question and challenge his notion of beauty,1 which was taken from the West, and which is still prevalent and dominant not only in Pakistan but the whole world. Art today suffers from this globally dominant notion of beauty.

NA: In that text you talk about artists having to be attuned to the realities of the world around them. The realities you have experienced as an artist in Karachi, and then in England, have changed quite dramatically

  1. Rasheed Araeen, Morning News, 22 February 1976.

  2. See Courtney J. Martin, ‘Sculptor, Performer, Critic: Rasheed Araeen, Circa 1970’, in Nick Aikens (ed.), Rasheed Araeen: A Retrospective, Zurich: JRP|Ringier, 2018, pp.177–89.