Curating Imtiaz Dharker’s Sense of Line

Curating Imtiaz Dharker’s Sense of Line

Sense of Line is an exhibition of drawings by artist, poet and documentary film-maker Imtiaz Dharker, showing in Project Space from 13 July to 2 August 2017. It is curated by Dr Nima Poovaya-Smith in partnership with students from the MA Art Gallery and Museum Studies and MA Arts Management and Heritage Studies programmes at the University of Leeds.

Dr Nima Poovaya-Smith is a Senior Visiting Fellow in the School of Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies at the University of Leeds. She is the Director for arts organisation Alchemy and Project Director for Sacred Sounds: Sikh Music Traditions and the First World War.

As the exhibition draws to a close, Nima reflects on Sense of Line and her experience of working with the group of students on placement for this project:

“Anyone who has read Imtiaz Dharker’s award-winning poetry would be familiar with some of her pen and ink drawings ― since she provides the images for the anthologies herself. However, what is not immediately apparent is the range and scale of these drawings and the very varied themes that they cover. She has been widely exhibited internationally, yet in the popular imagination, in this country at least, she is best known as a poet.

“When commissioning Imtiaz for Sacred Sounds: Sikh Music Traditions and the First World War, I wanted to give equal status to both art forms. In response, she produced six poems and four drawings. They were powerful and moving ― I knew then that I somehow had to create a one-person show of Imtiaz’s drawings with the Sacred Sounds commissions as the focal point.

The five postgraduate students on my placement programme were already familiar with Imtiaz’s work through an earlier Alchemy project ― The Haunting: Ghosts of Every Shade ― displayed in The Leeds Library in October 2016. Sense of Line evolved naturally through conversations with the students, Professor Abigail Harrison Moore, Dr Helen Graham and Dr Sam Belinfante. Sam kindly made Project Space ― the multi-purpose gallery space at the centre of the School of Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies ― available to us for three weeks.

“The students and I worked together as co-productionists. They have played an important role in the interpretation, installation and evaluation of the project. When they were first introduced to Imtiaz, they were thrumming with excitement. The preview did not include a speech by Imtiaz. Instead she responded to five thoughtful, probing questions prepared by each one of the students on a range of subjects related to her practice. Imtiaz was both delighted and touched.

Imtiaz Dharker, Letter, 2017. Pen and ink on hand made paper. A Sacred Sounds commission.“Sense of Line has been wonderfully well received by very varied audiences. The preview, salon and workshops attracted people to the School, who had never actually visited the University before. We cunningly managed to open the exhibition early so that it could be used as a setting for photographs on graduation day. Three generations flooded the space ― students with their parents, grandparents and siblings. Somehow, the works seemed to provide the perfect context for a day that was filled with excitement and joy for the graduating students. We were thrilled when Artists’ Network Newsletter selected Sense of Line as one of the top exhibitions of the week nationally.

“I hope Sense of Line is a harbinger of things to come for the five students ― a world full of creative opportunities. There will of course be challenges and tough decisions to make. The School has prepared them well for this.”

Sense of Line – Drawings by Imtiaz Dharker is open in Project Space until 2 August 2017.