Urgent Museum Notice

In Focus: Ambreen Butt Transcript

A light blue shape hangs in the center of the tan background. In the center, a circle opens and shows brown outlines of screaming women. A man with a bow and arrow, a tiger, figures of women in traditional Indian garb, and fall leaves are visible around the edges of the circle.

Artists at Work Video Series: Ambreen Butt


( gentle upbeat music )

[Ambreen] My name is Ambreen Butt.

My work stems from the traditional Indian and Persian miniature painting.

( sponge swishes )

I cut, I rip, I stitch, I paint, I draw. I use multiple materials.

It’s a very tedious process.

When you make your mark, you know, it’s not really visible to the eye because it’s so small. You just have to repeat the process over and over again.

You have to have faith and belief that eventually you will see an image formed on the surface.

( cricket chirps )

The labor literally consumes you in the work.

If I’m not emotionally and physically drained in my work, I don’t feel that it’s, like, truly my work. ( laughs )

It’s meditation in some ways. It resolves a lot of questions for me.

The work is highly political as well as personal.

It’s not just about, you know, me creating. It’s about me feeling the needs, the pains, of others.

The materials I use has a lot of symbolic significance,

like choosing a thread, a needle,

something that women have been using for centuries to sew their clothes, the clothes of their families, to mend broken things, that was what I was doing. I was mending and, you know, taking these broken pieces of the society.

I bring them in my studio; I put them back together, and, you know, create something new out of that.

When I started miniature painting, you know, you work on layers, and, you know, you spend so much time. When you see the final painting, you don’t really see the time spent with that.

I think NMWA is the kind of museum where it’s intimate enough for you to go in front of each work and spend your time.

And if you have a little bit more patience and strength to stand there a little bit longer, it does start to speak with you that this is not drawing. This is stitching, you know? This is thread. Oh, wow, there’s text in there.

And so, those elements start to reveal themselves.

I think it’s sort of like a reflection of our lives, not seeing how much labor we put into anything.

Sometimes, you know, the tiny little details are something that speak much louder than big marks.

If someone has taken the time out to stand there in front of it for a little bit longer, I feel the work has served its purpose.

My hours and hours and hours and hours of labor, it cannot be ignored.

You know, it’s not just an interesting work.

It’s work that needs a little more attention.

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