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HOW & WHY
Why art matters: Senator Salma Ataullahjan lets colour and inspiration flow freely
November 14, 2019

Senator Ataullahjan chose this impressionistic watercolour for a Christmas card.

Why I started painting

I was interested in art as a child and used to paint in school. Then life caught up with me; I got married, had children and gave up painting.

When I had my second child and she was about four years old, a friend said we should join some painting classes, so I thought, “Hey, why not?” That’s when I started up again.

How I paint

I like to paint in one go because, if I don’t paint continuously, I find the piece I’m working on tends to diverge into two separate paintings.

Very rarely do I give my works titles; different people see different things in a finished piece and I don’t like to limit the viewer’s judgement. I think when you give a painting a title you steer your audience in one direction.

Techniques I use

I tend to work in watercolour and tend to work loosely and quickly with free-flowing colours.

I’ll wet the paper on both sides, choose my colours and then apply the paint directly onto the moistened paper. Then I step back, take a look and evaluate what direction I should take the painting in.

Sometimes my paintings evolve in the process. One I did was turning into mud the more I worked on it. I thought, “OK, it’s ruined anyway. I’ll see what I can do with it.”

Because I felt it was already ruined, I had no inhibitions. I ran the painting under a tap while I scrubbed the surface with a bristle brush. I worked very freely and came up with an unexpectedly loose, impressionistic final piece. I liked the final result so much, I ended up using it as one of my Christmas cards.

Senator Salma Ataullahjan paints scenes inspired by her travels and by Pakistani literature. Several of her finished works hang in her East Block office.

What subject matter inspires me

I draw heavily on my travels and on my cultural heritage growing up in Pakistan and being influenced by its literature and art.

One of my pieces depicts a woman and a dove. That combination appealed to me because, in our poetry, a dove signifies a missing lover. The woman’s expression alone showed that there was someone missing from her life.

Why I paint

Painting is a form of therapy; I’m so absorbed when I’m painting that I don’t think about anything else.

It’s an extremely forgiving pastime. You don’t have to have lofty goals to take up painting. You can do it for the sheer joy of it.

If you have the passion, just do it. I paint simply because I like to paint and if other people happen to enjoy my finished works, well, that’s just a bonus.