Creativity Found

Furrah Syed – abstract acrylic paintings you can touch, colour energy and art workshops for the blind and partially sighted

May 30, 2021 Furrah Syed Season 2 Episode 5
Creativity Found
Furrah Syed – abstract acrylic paintings you can touch, colour energy and art workshops for the blind and partially sighted
Show Notes Transcript

Furrah Syed’s art is ALL about interaction. She creates heavily textured abstract art using acrylic and metallic paints, and even encourages ‘viewers’ to TOUCH her art. This extra sensory element has inspired her to develop art workshops for the blind and partially sighted, making her art and her art practice truly inclusive.

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Music: Day Trips by Ketsa https://ketsa.uk/under Creative Commons License
https://freemusicarchive.org/music/Ketsa/Raising_Frequecy/Day_Trips

Artworks: Emily Portnoi emilyportnoi.co.uk

Other podcasts cited: Daddy Look At Me

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Claire Waite Brown:

For this episode, I'm speaking with Furrah Syed, who was put off pursuing art at higher education by the restricted courses available at the time. She successfully worked and studied in banking, finance, food sciences, and marketing, then took a step back when her family moved for a time from London to India. She returned to art, but not in a way she had expected. And she now produces and educates in a colourful, textured sensory manner.

Unknown:

Hi, Farruh Hi, Claire, how are you? I'm good. Thank

Claire Waite Brown:

you. Tell me about your artistic practice.

Unknown:

Well, my art practice, it consists of two facets. One is creating abstract art. And the other is as an educator. So I create abstract art that is heavily textured, and can be experienced using the sense of touch as well as sight, the works can be viewed in any for orientation. And every time you change the orientation, you see new images. So that's quite fun to share. And the art is very interactive in that I don't title your work. So I want people to tell me what they see rather than what I would title piece with, because then it limits the interaction, I like imaginations being tickled, and people telling you what they think that they see. And the surfaces of the canvas dance with the light. So they change from morning to evening, because every time the light interacts with the metallic element on the surface of the canvas, different colours jump out. So it's it's a very changing experience rather than aesthetic experience. And in terms of my of the education side, I have created an art appreciation workshop for the blind and partially sighted which I have been very blessed to have delivered globally to many museums and institutions and educational establishments. And the workshop consists of three parts. The first part is where I invite the participants to experience the surfaces of the canvas using the sense of touch and ask them to tell me what they think is on the canvas. And each painting has so many different interpretations. And some interpretations have been so poetic, that it is quite emotional, actually. And it's wonderful to see, to hear sorry, what people feel when they are experiencing the paintings using the sense of touch. The next part of the workshop is where I show people how to feel the energies of colour, without needing the sense of sight, you can actually feel colour energies, which is a subject that I'm very passionate about. And I love sharing that with people. And then the final part of the workshop is where we create textured art together. It's just so much fun. And it's so enriching. And it's just really empowering for people to be able to create art in that way and then to be able to share it with their family and friends. So it's been a joyous experience, something that I'm very, very grateful for.

Claire Waite Brown:

That sounds wonderful. How exciting. Did you have a good experience of the arts at school and growing up?

Unknown:

I did. I was very blessed actually to have had wonderful art teachers, we had really good direction, and we're talking art and drama as well. So I'm very grateful for that experience. Because for the teachers there to have shown enthusiasm and encouragement was rare in those days. It's just luck of the draw really the kind of teachers that inspire you, so Yes, I definitely had a great experience at school, I loved creating. And I used to have, my teacher was so sweet, she gave me a little wall in our classroom where when I was creating art, just for pleasure as well, I'd come in and she'd put it up on the wall, and then other students would be really like happy to see it. And then we St. Mel wins the next one. So there was just a really nice experience to share out and have people actually enjoy it. So that I'm very, you know, I'm so grateful for that. Growing up, I mean, it coming from there. And I did find that in textile design and history of ailable wanted to then consider going down the direction of doing it as a degree. But that was a different experience completely. Back in those times, it was all about conceptual art, and the honing in of skills of creating representational art using different mediums was just not around and I went to all the main art schools round at the time in a central slave God was goes with see the foundation courses that are on offer. And none of them really went in those directions that I wanted to pursue. So it put me off completely. And I went in a completely different direction. At that time, it was an interesting experience. But I'm really glad I didn't force myself to go and do an art degree just for the sake of it, I made a conscious choice. And I'm glad I did that.

Claire Waite Brown:

So what did you do instead?

Unknown:

So I went in the direction of banking and finance for about three years, which was interesting, great to have your own money for a change, etc. And then I really wanted to do a degree and takes a break from working. But I wanted to do a degree anyway. So I did a degree in food sciences and consumer studies, which was, it was a very interesting modular degree. And it gave me a fantastic three year experience of learning about so many different industries. And I'm really, really happy I did it. And from there, I went into marketing, I was in, in marketing working in the city for about seven years from there. So that was a wonderful experience loved it really enjoyed it learned so much. And I have to say, every single time I do something, I learned a lot from it. And I take something from it to help me from whatever I'm doing currently so and then life gets busy, I got married, I had a daughter, you know, you just get very immersed in everything else is going on. So yeah, I embrace that. So that's what, what happened in the next like, 10 years or so after leaving my degree? My my university experience.

Claire Waite Brown:

Yeah, I know, you moved to India, and at that time, you started to explore your creativity again. And that exploration took a turn you perhaps weren't expecting, can you tell me about those experiences and what came out?

Unknown:

Oh, absolutely. So we moved to Bangalore, in India in 2006. And it was a life changing experience, obviously. And it was a time in my life where I was able to just stop. Life in London was crazy busy, there was lots going on. And I just did not even think about creating art, let alone even experiencing I just it was difficult. So when we went to India, it was just a wonderful experience to be able to just stop and live life in a different way, where I could also focus on what I wanted to do. Now, India just is the most amazing experience, even if you go on a holiday or whatever, it just has so many different facets of assaults on the senses, you know, smell, sight, sound, the colour is so many different things that happened when you're in India. And I loved every single part of it. Now we moved into a home and I needed to get some art together for the walls etc. And I really just went looking for to buy art, but it didn't see anything that really resonated. So I thought you know what, I'm just going to create something just to see what happens. And I was very lucky to have stumbled across a fantastic art shop, which had the most highest of qualities of supplies. And I really lucked out because I was able to get everything I needed in terms of Canvas, paints, palette, knives, brushes, in one place, picked up everything that I needed and brought it home and started to create. Now for me, that still is still leaves me confused and intrigued how this happened. All I wanted to create was representational art. In my previous creation adventures, when I created my first Canvas in India, the only thing that came out was abstract. And I still don't even know how that happened. But I'm very much a type of person who embraces things without questioning it too much. And I never looked back. Just the thought of creating representational art. From that point onwards just didn't appeal To me at all, and the abstract art that came out from within, and it was very much an uninterrupted flow of energy. And because I wasn't creating with any parameters, or for anybody else, just for myself, it was just such a beautiful experience for me, because I felt so satisfied creating it, and so satisfied after I created and saw the result, and it was just me and the canvas. And I cannot tell you how grateful I am for that experience, because it was just so freeing. So from there, I just created what I wanted and put them up on my walls and friends would come around. And so that's really interesting piece. I like it, like, tell me who it is because I might, I'd like to maybe buy from the artist. So initially, I didn't want to share, I didn't want to share that it was me at all. And I didn't tell anybody until a friend clocks on because she caught a glimpse of where I was working and what I was doing. But she didn't tell me a few weeks later, she bought a friend round for a coffee. And it was this gentleman who basically then just said to me, okay, let's just cut to the chase. I like what you do, I love what you create. And I want you to exhibit in my next gallery show. So this gentleman had a number of galleries was an art dealer as well. And I looked at my friend who brought him over I said, basically, what on earth are you doing? But then that point I had to think about and I was ready to share. So from there, I had a really great exhibition, many exhibitions to follow. And then I had a sellout solo show, before I left India, which was just the most amazing experience, and just really, you know, just so many things happened going with the flow, and I embraced every stage of it. And it was always on my terms for which I'm very, very happy about and you know, it was crazy, you know, having like a PR experience without because I had so many different articles and magazines, that coverage on the TV radio, just really, really great experience. also getting papped at parties was just bizarre. But yeah, you just embrace it all. But yeah, so India was amazing for me.

Claire Waite Brown:

Wow, what a whirlwind experience, texture started to play a really big part in your art practice, but not just in the creation of the pieces themselves. Can you tell me more about that development?

Unknown:

Yes, absolutely. So then I would give credit to that fantastic art shop because of the different shapes of palette knives that I was able to buy. And the paints were, the quality was fantastic, the colours, the fact that the textures and the paint held together, without me needing to add any additional materials like jesso, etc. So I was able to just freely create lovely textures. But also, I really embraced the flow on the canvas. So I loved being able to freely make markings on the canvas. And that then created the textures, I did explore different materials as well in some of my paintings using these that Pappy machine. And I use textured materials like sand as well. But texture, once I got the feel the fact that I can have almost like a 3d experience when creating and then sharing the art I loved and really embraced the concept of texture. And then also in terms of sharing the art in a sensory way. With people being able to feel the canvases, using the sense of touch. Absolutely made me just go full on with it and continue with that in all of my abstracts. Also sometimes breaking down barriers as well, with the concept of being inviting somebody to share their art with the sense of touch really does make people feel very comfortable and inclusive. Because it's a very strange thing for an artist stays to somebody fill the surfaces of the canvas, you know what it's like when you go to museums and galleries. If you step over the line and touch a campus, the alarms are gonna go off and you'll be you know, hunted down by security. absolutely understand that. So when people say to me what I can touch it, I love saying Yeah, absolutely, because it paints a very, very hardy, and I'm happy to embrace all of that. So it's just really, really nice to experience that. And in terms of the texture with the light alterations and the canvas is reacting to that the textures play a part in it as well because when I have a metallic sheen on a textured surface, the light dances on a much deeper level. There's so many interactions that happen with the light because of the textures and the metallic aspects. So yeah, texture is everything for me.

Claire Waite Brown:

What medium Do you work in then and has that changed for example, since It's your first visit to the art supply shop in India.

Unknown:

Yes, it did, because I started creating with oils. So with oils, you have the limitation that the oils do not dry instantly in comparison to acrylics. So because I wanted to layer the paintings with different shades of colours, I couldn't do that very freely with oils. I had to create intersections, I had to create intersections, I couldn't do it layer upon layer at the speed that I wanted to. So yes, it was an interesting experience working with us because it's a different viscosity in the paint. But also the smell of terps was horrible, but that's separate. So when I switched to acrylics, again, I lilulu to that art shop had fantastic acrylic. So they changed everything because not only with acrylics was able to work faster. with acrylics, they also had the most wonderful range of metallic paints. That changed everything because then it meant that I could create the metallic Sheen's in comparison to the wonderful shades of the paints that were already there. Implementing metallic paint into my canvases really did give me so many more options, and I loved it, who

Claire Waite Brown:

I love sharing my guests stories with you. But podcasting isn't cheap. There are hosting fees and software costs, tech to buy and time to invest in planning and editing. To make sure the guests sound great. And listeners hear the best content. If you'd like to financially support creativity found, please visit k o hyphen f fi.com. Slash creativity found podcast. You mentioned in your introduction about the teaching side of your artwork as well. Can you tell me about how that came about?

Unknown:

Yeah, so so my art appreciation workshop for the blind and partially sighted It was created because I was very curious about how would it be if somebody who was blind or partially sighted would experience the works. And when I was in India, when I had started to invite people to feel the surfaces of the canvas using the sense of touch, I really wanted to delve further into this. So a friend of mine had of relative who was blind, and I was able to meet this person and I was able to explore them experiencing my canvases using just a sense of touch. And the feedback that I got from this person was wonderful, the interpretations were so beautiful. And he told me he felt so freeing, and it was just a really enriching experience to have that interaction with somebody painting. So it just led me to really want to share this further on a much more structured way. At the same time, I was also studying the concept of pranic healing, and that's healing with energy. And I became an advanced practitioner of pranic healing, which is healing with colour energy. So that's how I found out about the fact that we can all feel colour energy, physically. So that kind of like came at the perfect time. And again, as I said, I'm very much somebody who embraces in experience and you know, has an imagination to take it further. So when we came back to UK, with all these different experiences in mind, I put together my art appreciation workshop for the blind and partially sighted and basically started to deliver it. And luckily at the same time, where I had a solo show in Hong Kong, I was at the same time invited to deliver a speech in Melbourne, because I'm an ambassador for the Clinton Foundation. So I was going to be in Australia anywhere in because I was in Hong Kong, I asked the gallery owner, he would host a workshop for me with organisation that I found in Hong Kong. So the global aspect went completely crazy, very, very early on, because I was going to be in these different places. So I embraced it. And then what because I knew I was going to be in Melbourne. I contacted Vision Australia. And they loved the concept and invited me straightaway to be on their radio show. They asked if I could go to Sydney to deliver a workshop there. I said, Oh, yes. So it just went it was embraced very quickly with such warmth. And I'm very grateful for that because that just got me the bug and I just continued to deliver it all over. And of course in the UK as well. The workshop as I said I wanted to structure it so we've got the experience of being able to share it fully with people and they could experience it fully in each section. So the first section And is where I invite people to feel the surfaces of the canvas and tell me what they think that they are feeling with no right or wrong answer. And it's just such a great experience to see people embrace that, because I am so grateful for the really deep interactions. And sometimes the reactions have been so poetic, and really moving very emotional. And, you know, I can't kind of explain how wonderful it is to have that with a complete stranger, you have just met. So, and every Canvas has a different experience from different people, which in itself is wonderful. So that's the first aspect. The second part of the workshop is where I'm sharing the technique of feeling colour energies, and I start people off with apples or something that's, you know, very easy to get like peppers or whatever, I get them to hover over a red and a green apple, and ask them to just close your mind, really just focus on what's happening on your hands. And if you feel a sense of warmth, or a sense of coolness in any of the hands, please let me know. And I do it, where I asked them to lift up the object where they feel warmth, if they do, and people are holding up the red apple most of the time, which is fantastic. And so that means that they've got the concept, and then I bring the paintings out again. And then because each of the paintings that I've created for the workshops, have cool areas and warm areas. So like a red and a red colour would give us a warmer energy and say white or a blue would give off a cooler energy. And this is based on the concept of the fact that physically, colours that are darker absorb a higher frequency of energy, therefore they emit a higher frequency of energy. And that is what we can feel. And the opposite is for colours such as like white, or blue or green. So that is brilliant. I mean, the experiences on that have been fantastic. I had a lady on a workshop in Sydney, as she said to me, she could feel warmth in her palm. But her fingertips were really cool. So she couldn't understand what on earth was going on. She says it's so distinctive. In one hand, I don't know what's happening. So I went and had a look at where her hand was. And a palm was over a very deep orange. And her fingertips were on a very kind of pale green, where on top of that I had painted a metallic silver. So it was really kind of it was emitting very cool energy waves to her that she could feel on one hand is brilliant experience. And this lady was so amazed by it. And she actually was fascinated by this concept. And she actually went on and trained as an colour therapist. So that kind of reaction and experience is amazing to me. So that's the second part of the workshop. And the third part of the workshop is where we create textured art together, I cannot source very textured materials like sand popcorn, Pepe and mushy lentils and mice and things. So people can create art using colour glue and the textures that they want to create. And then once dry, they can share that with their family and friends. And it's just an empowering experience for them. Obviously, Enriching for them, and the people that they're going to share it with, but so much fun is had in that section as well. So every single workshop is just been wonderful to experience and I can't wait to do it again.

Claire Waite Brown:

They sound fantastic, so joyful and full of wonderful experiences. On another matter, I know that you enjoy collaborating with interior designers Tell me more about that process and why it excites you.

Unknown:

I love this, I love doing this so much. So working with interior designers and yacht interior designers is a brilliant experience. I have experience of being part of the project right from the start or being asked to create art for a project towards the end. So being a part of the project right from the start is really wonderful because then I get to see the concept right at the beginning and can interact in terms of placing art near light, natural source of light, preferably and colour schemes, textures, knowing what the client wants in terms of the level of energy on the canvas, because some people really like very calm energies on a canvas, so minimal minute, a minimalistic approach. And some people want anything and everything that you can put on there. So I then have a really good structured brief right from the start. And I'm in touch with the interior designer throughout the process and can adjust accordingly if needed. So I love that experience. And also it's challenging, but also a good challenge to be asked at the end of a project to supply art because then I can go in And see all the colours, everything set up in terms of the way the property is laid out and can create a piece of art, according to what the interior designer and the client wants. So both experiences are very interesting. Now, when we're talking about your interiors, oh my gosh, that is on another level. Because when I have my art on the seas, with the light that is so bright and beautiful, and when you can imagine the sun dancing on the surface of the seas, and then that reflects back on to the yacht interiors, and exteriors, etc, to have a painting. And that setting is wonderful. Because the light is completely different, it changes so much and interacts so well, with the metallics on my canvases. So I really enjoy that. And I definitely want to do more of it. And I've had such great feedback from clients, because they really embraced it. And you know, it's been really exciting to do that for sure to know that my painting is on the seas, who knows where in the planet, and having fun with the light that is just ongoing dance, let's say I really love doing that. But yeah, wonderful experiences so far. And I cannot wait to see what's coming next in that in that part of what I do.

Claire Waite Brown:

Oh, fabulous. Do you manage to achieve a balance between helping others the commercial work and creating your own body of work?

Unknown:

That's very, very tricky some times? And yes, it's because the thing is, I'm the type of person that wants to do everything in anything, and have the enthusiasm to want to do anything at everything. But I do have the sensible side of my head that says, No, you have to rein some things in and put some things on the back burner. Yeah, so I'm very, very careful with that. And sometimes I have felt overwhelmed. So what I do actually like to do, I mean, we haven't been able, I haven't been able to do that because of COVID. But I do like to just go off on a trip by myself. And just to reset, recharge, just think of what I want to do just me taking care of myself. So I like to do that. And I love being at my studio by myself as well, because then I can just focus on what I want to do with no disturbances, no, no distractions. And it's just yeah, definitely, I'm always trying to better my balance of what I really need to do and what I really want to do. But yeah, whenever I'm creating, I must have a clear head. So I don't ever compromise on that. I could be better, but I am quite good at balancing it. But yeah, definitely. There's room for improvement on that for sure.

Claire Waite Brown:

Yay. Good for you. How does your art affect your well being now? And looking back? Do you feel that there was perhaps something missing when you weren't creating in this way?

Unknown:

Um, gosh, that's really interesting question. Well, I looking back, because I'd started it with a very self discovery mode, I feel that I do feel that creating and enjoying art has always had a positive impact on my well being. And I do feel that I've always approached any experience with full attention. Even if I'm in like a stunning setting countryside or history or whatever I do, try and shut everything off and experience and immerse myself very deeply in something. So I really do value that interaction and that experience. So I immersed myself without distractions. So I would say that that takes away any elements of what I can fully gain from what I'm doing. So I'd say I've always felt a sense of well being, and continue to do so. That's amazing.

Claire Waite Brown:

What are your plans or hopes for the future?

Unknown:

I am very excited for many, many things. And for that I'm very grateful. So I'm excited to soon be starting on my new body of work. the working title at the moment is alchemy on canvas, and I have a lot of ideas that I really can't wait to put onto canvas and have that studio time as well. By myself with nothing else. I'm so looking forward to delivering more of my workshops in the UK and abroad when it's safe to travel. I've got a number of different countries that have approached me to deliver workshops there as well as other organisations who want me to come back and deliver more. But yeah, can't wait to do that. And I can't wait to work more with interior designers and definitely, yacht and superyacht interior designers so really excited about many things. And, as I said, so much gratitude for everything that's coming my way. And that's already happened.

Claire Waite Brown:

Brilliant. Thank you. There are many, many podcasts out there. It's difficult to know where to start. So I like to ask my guests for their recommendations. You're welcome.

Unknown:

So in terms of a podcast recommendation, I have to tell you that I love comedy. all genres, sitcoms, stand up ROM coms. And because of that the podcast that I would like to recommend is one called Daddy, look at me. And it's hosted by Helen Bower and Rosie Jones. And it's they have so many hilarious comics on there. It's just a real joy, you have a lot of, you know, it's just really, really good experience. And I would highly recommend to find the one which shows the America because oh my god, it's just so funny. And it also gives a really interesting insight into the challenges that women face when growing up in a restricted Asian culture. I would recommend the podcast and all of the episodes, but I would highly recommend that particular one which shows America

Claire Waite Brown:

excellent, good choice. I haven't had any comedy yet. How can people contact you?

Unknown:

So my website is far aside art.com I'm on Instagram, Facebook, and clubhouse. And if you just search for fireside, I will come up. Luckily my name is spelt so weirdly, it means that I stand out. So I'm going to make the most of that. So yeah, you can find me on all the platforms I've just mentioned. Amazing.

Claire Waite Brown:

Thank you so much for

Unknown:

Thank you Claire. I really enjoyed this.