I have been interested in art from a young age. As a teenager growing up in Pakistan, I would take a bus from my home in Rawalpindi to the house of Sadequain, one of Pakistan’s most respected artists, in Islamabad. Every chance I could, over the course of five years, I would sit with Sadequain and watch him create, get him tea, and learn from his artistry. It was the best training a young artist could have received. During that time, I did pen and ink drawings, mainly of landscapes and other elements that captured the world’s beauty. I also got a degree in Computer Science. For the next 20 years, I worked in several fields from furniture manufacturing in Kuwait to jewelry design in Cyprus. More recently, I started my own information technology consulting firm, EshalSoft, and work as a software developer with companies around the world.
It was not until I moved to Australia in 2006, that I started doing paper cutting art. And that too, by accident. One day, my daughter, five years old at the time, came up to me and said, “Baba, I’m bored.” I picked up a white piece of paper, folded it several times, and started snipping corners with a scissor. When I unfolded it, it looked like a sunflower. I was amazed at the beauty that could be created with a simple piece of paper and a scissor.
For the past 12 years, I’ve created hundreds of art pieces, exhibited in galleries around the world, and won national and international awards. One honor that I’m particularly proud of is that I am the only paper cutting artist in the world that focuses on Islamic stories.
My goal with my paper cutting art is twofold: first I want to create the “WOW” factor – to make something so precise, detailed, unique and fragile, in a medium that people are not used to seeing, that viewers are completely surprised by the outcome. I think it encourages people to spend time examining the intricacy of the art, asking questions about the stories and verses that are represented, and sharing their own stories about faith and life.
Second, I want to use my art to build bridges of understanding. I focus on depicting stories that faith traditions have in common and sharing verses of the Quran that reveal the values of Islam. People become interested in learning about the stories that each piece portrays, and are excited when they find commonalities with their own faith. I hope that my art can reveal the beauty of my faith and perhaps even help dispel misperceptions about Islam. Because for me, it’s not just about selling a piece of art, it’s about sharing something beautiful, making a connection, and leaving a positive mark on the world.