Tusif Ahmad is a professional paper cutting artist. His interest in art began in his teenage years when he started creating pieces of art doing pen and ink work. Mostly interested in creating landscapes and capturing and preserving the beauty of the world in his work at the time. Tusif was born in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, and began his visual art learning from Rawalpindi Arts Council. Tusif came to Australia in late 2006. Being a self-taught artist, he has been working on papercutting since 2008. Throughout the years he has exhibited his work in many well-known galleries around the world, alongside receiving several notable awards and recognition.
To see some of Tusif’s artwork head over to the Islamic Museum of Australia where his exhibition ‘Bismillah’ is currently on display. You can visit this exhibition until 16 February 2019.
1. Can you tell us a little about what you do?
I do paper cutting art. It is a craft dating back hundreds of years, yet it is still very popular today. Paper was invented only around A.D. 100 in China. The art of Paper Cutting began almost at the same time. Soon it became very popular in China, especially at the time of the Sung Dynasty (10th – 13th century). Paper Cutting in China was wide-spread as folk art and people used it for many reasons, such as window decorations, pasted cut-out pictures for lanterns, house door decorations, etc. Large Paper Cuttings were used as decoration for sedan chairs, boxes, chests, and saucers that were burned at funerals. The patterns for Chinese Paper Cutting were mostly taken from Chinese mythology. Silk paper (a very thin paper) and parchment are generally used for this art.
It has been found that Paper Cutting came from China to Austria and then to all over Europe. People started doing Paper Cutting in different places and at different times with individual traits and cultures. So, it is difficult to follow the exact path of Paper Cutting.
To give a more natural, original, and clear look most of the paper cuttings have been done with Black & White paper. Generally, artists use the same theme with variations in most of their works. I use intricate Islamic patterns and themes in my paper cutting. My style of paper cutting is unique.
2. What attracted you most about becoming a papercutting artist?
When I came to Australia, I thought it is a great medium to express true stories of Islam and reduce tension between Islam and other religions. Most of my artwork have messages.
3. What’s the most challenging aspect of your job?
To draw a complex artwork, keeping in mind all pieces and how they would join together is most challenging. It becomes more complex when we join different colour paper. Cutting is time-consuming and requires a great amount of concentration and focus; one slight mistake can cause damage of months’ of hard work.
4. What’s the best career of advice you were given?
Don’t put all eggs in one basket. My father told me that you should have different skills and strive to be a renaissance man to not just survive in today’s world but thrive in it.
5. If you could go back in time, would you do anything differently?
First of all, if I could go back in time, I would be doing more good to my parents. Secondly, I would spend more time in making Allah (God) happy than worrying about making people happy.
6. What advice can you give to those who are interested in becoming an artist?
It is very important to connect yourself to a cause. I would advise artists to work for a cause and create artworks that bring positive change to our society.