Shahida Dolan meets Steve Bewick
All across the arts met with visual artist Shahida Dolan (currently exhibiting in The People’s Art exhibition, Touchstones), in her temporary studio which was filled with natural light and benefited from inspirational views of open playing fields of a local school, the sounds of children playing, and a bright blue sky. I say temporary as Shahida is in the process of reorganising the house with a plan for establishing a new studio in her basement.
We sat amongst six canvases, of various sizes and stages of creation, paints and brushes and enjoyed a cup of tea as we chatted about her life as a mother, wife and artist.
Shahida came here some thirty years ago from Manchester as an Racial Equality officer and loves Rochdale and its many challenges. Painting even at that time was a passion of hers but, although she was told from an early age that she had talent, she was never encouraged by her parents to take up art as a career.
As an female artist, she believes art is perhaps more of a challenge for women. The woman’s role in the home, as a mother, and often as a working mother, gets in the way of the demanding role of a committed and passionate artist.
The turning point for her was in 2000 when she made a conscious decision to restructure her life around being an artist, a passion that had existed for her from the age of three. Shahida attended several diploma courses that led eventually to studying for a BA at Salford from where she qualified with honours.
Feeling she has still not quite achieved the role of full time artist, Shahida paints with a personal `concept`, and enjoys using rich colours in her paintings. She has played an active part in the Rochdale Artists’ Network benefiting from the critical input of her peer group. She has frequently exhibited over the years, which she says “pushes an artist and creates challenges.”
“Painting,” she explained to me, “is a draining and exhaustive process.”
Shahida told me she tends to work at speed with often several paintings on the go at the same time, saying “the end point is always the inspiration to start again when you reflect back on what you have created.”
Shahida believes her work reflects her Asian background and culture, where rich colours are often an integral part of life experience. Colour and the use of light, in landscapes, skies and shoreline images, surrounded us in the six paintings that were under construction in her studio. She commented that her peers and friends, after repeated viewings, often then become aware of her use of colour and lighting influences that on first appearances were not apparent to them. Shahida believes this is what gives her work its uniqueness. This is the Shahida Dolan signature, the concept to which she paints.
I contrasted the rich colours she likes to use with the more common grey colours of this old mill town in the South East corner of Lancashire, inviting her to comment on this anomaly. After some consideration it was felt that she was putting the colours into Rochdale. The colours and images she worked with were clearly from her life experience.
Currently Shahida is returning to oil as her first love of painting, after recently working in watercolours. The artist never stands still. She currently has work at the Pop Up Shop in the Wheatsheaf Shopping Centre an initiative supported by Rochdale Literature and Ideas Festival.
I was told of her exploration of the old masters, (echoing John Cooke’s exhibition at Number Ten Gallery), the use of black and white and Chinese styles.
The recent death of her husband and the emotional turmoil that brought about has left Shahida with no exhibitions currently pending and no outstanding current commissions, and so she is ‘painting for herself at the moment’ to regain the discipline of working to deadlines.