Born in 1973 Faiza Butt trained at the NCA in Lahore and the Slade School of Art in London. Her work has been shown in various museums and included in several publications.
Faiza has always created work bursting with meaning and significance. Her elaborate and intricate drawings are obsessively crafted with passion and rigour to produce surfaces that hover somewhere between a photograph and embroidery. From images of Iranian wrestlers to trophy kissing western champions, the portrayal of the sporting 'Warrior hero' is put under inspection, sometimes with wit and at other times more honestly. Many of her works are mug shots of Muslim men found in assorted newspapers and magazines, reinforcing the stereotypical notion of the Muslim man as a terrorist. Yet, Butt's instinct is to decorate these images and beautify them, making them a source of enjoyment and gratification. The subliminal power of the cropped journalistic image is assessed and exaggerated by the artist, as these portraits are enlarged to a dominating scale with the slightly 'off' stare holding the viewer in his place. Once again these images of men are represented with a fantastical narrative, objectifying them into a spectacle. In doing so, the artist seems to be reacting to the portrayal of women as 'objects of desire' in art history. Faiza's choice of medium is a reactionary response to her years as a student at the Slade School of Art, where large, physical, muscular and "technologically advanced" work held more worth than contemplative intellectual responses. She started to create ambitious, highly detailed drawings with ink pens that rivaled "exhibition" of work and focused on art historical and gender issues.
Butt's paintings are painstakingly crafted using a near obsessive technique of tiny dots - this style is reminiscent of the par dokht style in miniature painting - a meticulous process that involves the covering of the painted surface with individual dots. One can trace origins of this style in Butt's work from the training she received in miniature painting at the NCA in Lahore. However these dots also replicate pixels structure of a photograph, on polyester translucent films. This is especially relevant given that the artist created these drawings from photographs in newspapers and magazines. The pieces are mounted on light boxes which trigger the process of development, creating an ethereal iconic appeal. Although she is aware of the Post Impressionists and the Pointillists, her work comes from an entirely different origin, and whilst the Pointillists wanted to capture the effect of light Butt is interested in capturing the splendor and contradictions of the Islamic tradition.
Although a trained Slade artist and living in London Butt's Pakistani roots are clearly evident in her work as she brings to our attention various social, gender and political issues faced by a young Pakistani. In the past, her work has taken a critical look on the stronghold of the patriarchal society in Pakistan and the impact of violent images, which appear regularly in all forms of media, on children.
Her recent show titled 'Pehlwan' at the Grosvenor Vadehra, London was very well received and served as a step towards improving Indo-Pak relationship through cultural connections. The word Pehlwan (Farsi for wrestler), is a term used to describe a man of impressive physical worth and attributes. 'Pehlwans' have had significant standing Islamic traditions - from the spiritually charged Iranian 'zur-khanas' to the shrine dwelling Indo-Pak monks - they command the respect of the classically divine hero. In this exhibition, the artist continued her exploration of gender issues. She focused on the representation of the male image in modern photography. Butt turned the gaze of her audience to the highly eroticized images of men - with bare and ribbed chests such as those of wrestlers -demonstrating hyper-masculinity. When asked about her work she says,
"I want the process to be clear to the viewer, the degree of clarity is important, I want to throw punches, to deliver a message without having to read up on the background and yet…and yet my work must also contribute to the history of painting."