Fresh off a series of sold-out shows in Karachi, graphic artist Eemaan Bano Rahman – or 'beygumbano' as she is more commonly known – is taking in the last few years of hard work she has put in, building her profile, expanding her business, and appealing to contemporary art collectors the world over.
Producing under the label ‘beygumbano’, the brand has grown to garner a loyal following of nearly 20,000 on Instagram along with an online shop that has now diversified into a variety of products with artworks range from Rs20,000-27,000.
Popular within the contemporary collector set, she mentions how her online presence has helped build a profile and promulgate her to popularity.
In recent months, Rahman has also been busy contributing to flood-relief efforts, contributing 30% of all artwork and 100% of all clothing sales from her label.
More recently, she contributed to a fundraiser where a host of artists and photographers donated artworks with 100% of the proceeds being donated to flood-victims.
“I think what has happened is a catastrophe that really cannot have a one- time solution approach to things,” she told Business Recorder in an exclusive interview.
“We, as creatives or anybody with an ounce of privilege and skill, need to re-think the way we operate in this country. I really appreciate that in times like these, we as a community are able to step up and use our talents to help save our country."
Born and raised in Lahore, Rahman attended the Lahore Grammar School and graduated from Beaconhouse National University, with a distinction in Visual Communication Design, finishing in 2018.
Fast forward a couple years, she started working as a graphic designer, eventually moving up to art director.
“Post graduation, I gravitated towards the 9-5 agency life, but always felt like I was very constricted to briefs and ideas where I wasn’t able to experiment beyond what was instructed. Then the pandemic happened, and I started making art."
Beginning to showcase her art on her online profile on Instagram, she credits her success and popularity to everyone being home-bound during the pandemic. She began working under her alias ‘beygumbano’, in June 2020.
"Strangeness of being"
Examining the emulsion of figures and especially the colours in her works, Rahman does not conform to the parameters of the canvas, instead painting over and including the boundary itself as part of the artwork.
“Growing up, I was always very aware and overwhelmed by colours, patterns, textures and compositions. I found myself creating visual sceneries in my head all the time.
“Once I started posting and showing the world what I was up to, it was nothing short of a stroke of 'right place, right time'.
"People were sitting at home, dulled out by uncertainties, and they responded to the call of beauty and wonder. The rest is history."
Her art, composed in vivid colours – a lot of neons and plenty paradoxical features – comes off witty and subversive, in tandem. Business Recorder asked her whether she would describe her art as such.
“My work has very tongue-in-cheek commentary, and it is composed through the observation and exploration of myself, and others around me.
“My art is an outlet for escapism and fantasy, but firmly rooted in our cultural ideologies. It is ornate and embellished with surreal characters and pop culture references. In all, it’s a parody. Something to be in awe of, to introspect, but also to laugh at.”
Indeed, most pieces and the antics within do make one laugh out loud at its ludicrosity and familiarity since at the end of the day, there are plenty cultural norms represented and alluded to in her pieces — the artwork, thus, becoming an ironic statement of sorts.
“Pakistan is a funny place to be in," she explains.
"It’s full of ironies and hypocrisies. We are swallowed by the intersection of culture and religion, our gender and wealth polarities, the political and social instability. It’s so chaotic being here, that it influences the nature of my art. It is questioning of society, but doused with blinding neon pigments, and other-worldly, mystical character formations. My work responds to the strangeness of being.”
"Things of wonder"
Rahman’s formal training is in graphic design. She found along the way in its practice how it informed her working on a canvas and treating both the artwork and its frames as a composite, holistic piece.
“I would find myself working in between guides and systematic themes and structures, and would only break away from the composition safely.
“I feel with time, the nature of the art has really evolved. It’s more detailed, more experimental, more enriched with mystery and concept."
Her pieces have stood out against a crowded art market not just because of the uniqueness of its subject matter but also because of the bright frames that truly make them stand out. It’s what makes her works instantly recognisable from afar.
“I think I have carved out a niche with bright painted ornate frames, and I do see myself now not only focusing on the digital canvas but how the frames tie in with what I’m trying to say. It's a more complete composition. Also, I have limited the reach of my art to a small number, by just making numbered editions.”
On what artists and creatives inspire her work, she says the primary inspiration is the creative director of Gucci, Alessandro Michelle.
"He has brought about a revival for vintage designs and a new passion for eclecticism.”
Other than that, she is inspired by Fornasetti, Andy Warhol, Ignasi Monreal, Seletti, Nadia Jaber, Paul Insect and many more.
“I find myself to be more excited about how art is turning everyday mundane objects into things of wonder. The inspiration started from the walls, but pouring into apparel, crockery, bed linen and hopefully more mediums to take over.”
Creating magic and art aside, as her work crosses over to different products and industries such as apparel and textile, and is quickly learning how to run a business also.
She recently created a limited-edition bedding collection in collaboration with a textile house, The Linen Company, which sold out. Of the collaboration, she explained how she wanted to redefine art and break barriers of what it should be, and where it should be.
She has spent the rest of the year working on an annual sweatshirt collection, and coming up with new pieces for tableware.
“I create at a whim.
“I don’t take it too seriously, and I conjure up art only when it's fun to me. I used to take the pressure of it all, but I think it defeats the purpose of what I'm trying to achieve. And what I'm trying to do is just to scatter a little bit of magic and beauty.
"Everything happened so fast but as ‘beygumbano’ is growing, I'm learning the ropes of business as well, and it's hopefully a long colorful journey from here."
Truly, it has been a busy year.
"Inspiration is endless. Especially in this era, where we have access and exposure to so many different ideas and philosophies.”
Over the last two years, Rahman has showcased her works in Dubai, London, Singapore, Italy, across the United States and Canada.
“I was particularly surprised at the response even when I started. Being a new independent artist, not backed by any gallery — I have had my work being acquired by prominent art collectors, critics, people from all industries. I have seen my prints being curated next to a Sadequain. It feels almost undeserving.”
As for what inspired her unique and quirky alias: “My middle name is Bano, and who doesn't want to be called Beygum,” she says, self-deprecatingly.
Rahman is equally surprised at her newfound status.
“It's a strange feeling, like the world is changing. There seems to be space, acceptance and rejoicing at the present moment and at the revolution of ideas and techniques.”