Baby from second hand flesh coloured pantieshose, made in Alexandria Egypt 2008






Born and raised in Pakistan. Lives and works in Pakistan and U.S.A.

Selected Exhibitions
2008 DWAYER, International workshop for women, Alexandria, Egypt
2008 There is no hero, Solo show at Canvas, Karachi, Pakistan
2007 Intimacy, Ivan Daugherty Gallery, Sydney, Australia
2007 Intensity of space and substance, National Art Gallery, Islamabad
2006 Soft Restraint, SAVAC, G + Galleries, Toronto, Canada
Nest of memories, Solo Show at Vermont Studio Center, Johnsons, Vermont
2006 VM Gallery , Karachi, Pakistan
2005 Feats of Clay XVIII Gladding, McBean. Lincoln, California
2004 Museum of childhood Bethnal Green, London UK
2004 Bronze Show, Art Foundry Gallery, Sacramento, California
2003 Affiliations, group show, Walsh Gallery, Chicago
2003 Sangam, Urbis, Manchester, UK
2002 Threads, Dreams, Desires, Harris Museum Preston, UK
2001 Nawai Sarosh (voice of an Angel), Solo Show at Rohtas II, Lahore Pakistan
2001 Group Show, Amin Guljee s’ Gallery, Karachi, Pakistan
2000 Eye Still Seeks, Contemporary Art from Pakistan, Ivan Dougherty Gallery, Sydney, Australia
Workshops /Residencies/Awards

2006 Fellowship Award, Vermont Studio Center, VT
2006 Vasl Residency, Karachi, Pakistan"
2006 Artist in Residence, BNU, Lahore, Pakistan
2002 Artist in Residence (Shisha), Harris Museum Preston, UK(catalogue)
2000 Vasl First International Artist Workshop, Gaddani (catalogue)


Art of Stillness by Quddus Mirza
POP ART: Soft images — harsh realities, by Salwat Ali
No heroes, no losers, by Shaza Nishat

Memory, Metaphor, Mutations : Contemporary Art of India and Pakistan/Yashodhara Dalmia and Salima Hashmi, New Delhi, Oxford University Press"\
Chicago Reader by Fred Camper"
New city by Michael Workman"
Chicago Sun Times by JHK"
Reflections, Shisha art South Asia"
Unveiling the Visible by Salima Hashmi"
News line by Salima Hashmi
News on Sunday by Asim Akhtar
Daily Dawn by Samina Chunara
Daily Dawn by Sara Dar
Embroidery Magazine,(UK) by Elizabeth Smith"
You've come a long way, babe! by Salima Hashmi"

Professional Education

2004 Bronze Casting, Art Foundry Gallery, Sacramento, CA, USA
2004 Sculpture Ceramics, El Dorado center, Placerville, CA, USA

1988 BFA, National College of Arts Lahore, Pakistan


Art of stillness
Ruby Chishti's work depicts power and violence in the form of a social critique

By Quddus Mirza

Like civil servants, politicians, postmen and artists, birds are always on the move. If not flying, then hovering on a branch or searching food on some rooftop, these are constantly turning their necks, opening their beaks, scratching their feathers, shifting their feet and jerking their bodies. Little sparrows and black crows in search of food in human habitats are perpetually alert, because of an instinctive fear of mankind.

In that context, Ruby Chishti's works depicting neatly fabricated crows that appeared solemnly solid bothered the viewer at an unconscious level. Simultaneously, birds' dark bodies -- fabricated with junk materials consisting of old clothes and metal wires and scattered around the gallery -- suggested a sense of gloom usually associated with crows, the unwanted creatures. The artist has used these birds as they are traditionally used -- signs of guests and important news. This concept still prevails amongst the masses, especially their folk songs and proverbs.

Along with the crows, the other groups in her exhibition (Ruby Chishti's solo exhibition was held from Jan 30-Feb 07, 2008 at Canvas Gallery, Karachi) were women, both naked and covered. On several panels and in the baskets (made of twigs) figures of nude women (aged and shapeless) and Afghani burqas were composed. Ruby described the genesis of these works in her experience of looking after her old mother. The exposure to her withered body, decaying skin and paralysed self was translated into small figurine constructed with swollen stocking. These headless and often armless bare torsos communicated an image of female, devoid of any charm, activity or even life.

Sullen bodies with drooping flesh were composed in rows or were stacked in the baskets next to burqas -- forms which were enigmatic. In one panel these burqas, of same size but in different shades, were fixed in straight lines. The idea of repeating one motif/image was seen in another panel, with the back of girls' heads glued on the surface. These forms were constructed with fabric and wool of various colours.

With all her women, clothed, nude, headless torso and heads with pony tails, the idea of stillness emerged in the work of Ruby Chishti. Human figures, made with stockings and other stuff, represented an aspect of body that is far from being glamorous or energetic. Though the artist explained her work in line with her experience of managing her mother, but the work like any interesting art piece moved beyond its initial/original frame of thought. It conveyed the status of women in a society, which forces them to either stay indoor, hidden under covers or treated as mere object of desire.

Thus the nude figures in Ruby's work defied attraction and presented another reality linked with the body. This representation of women was not aimed at making them grotesque in content, but an attempt to showcase the lifeless aspect of a human being.

The works of Ruby, in a sense trespassed from the state of existence to the stillness of death. The death was raised in many other ways in several works: The infant with his umbilical cord ending in a tassel, or a newborn's head and some parts of body sculpted with layers of sanitary pads. These pieces, along with another torso, made with the same material and resting a hand on a cow's head suggested the fascination, fear and the danger of death (Presumably these ideas must have occupied the artist during her involvement with her ailing mother).

Torso next to a cow's head signified a feminist position too, since the animal's head was shaped with various bras, stretched and sewn together. The fact that faceless nude was engaged in a gesture of possession (reminiscent of pictures about hunting expeditions) reflected Ruby's observation of how men consider women and animals/pets as their personal properties. For them the idea to overpower them provides a sense of extreme satisfaction, pleasure and pride.

Besides her feminine approach and feminist position, the idea of violence was dominant in some other works. Built with threads, rag dolls, plastics, the work on large fabrics dealt with war, killings and terror in a society. In a piece, the scenes from a ravished battlefield were recreated with dead figures, bleeding bodies and torn surfaces with the small shape of a buraq, meticulously rendered in plastic. In another work a tiny armoured car with a few soldiers was woven on a huge area of red cloth. The juxtaposition of a military vehicle with the vastness of red communicated the effects of war and aftermath of violence.

A soft, docile and peaceful person, Chishti's work unveiled the presence of power and violence as a social critique. The work reaffirmed the extended 'role' of violence in our lives. The growth of this element has affected people in two ways. If they exist in perpetual fear of dying in a bomb blast, or through bullets fired by unknown assassins, they are gradually becoming immune to this. And on some level they have accepted death through violence as one of the natural means to depart this world.

Seeing the works of Ruby Chishti in our surroundings (Ruby resides in USA) and contemporary context, one assumes that soon people will get familiar with the presence of violence in our society -- as they are becoming used to power breakdown, gaps in gas supply and disappearance of wheat from their lives.


Review by Salwat Ali
Soft sculpture, stitched, stuffed, plaited, knitted or meshed is a post modern variant of the traditional sculptural genre. The unconventional expression enjoys currency abroad but has only just begun to reveal itself here and young artist Ruby Chisti is perhaps among its most eloquent exponents.

Her exhibition ‘There is no Hero’ at Canvas Gallery, Karachi is not just a very inventive take on fabric formations but also a very creative manifestation of her ideas. Related to the artist’s incessant need to translate her emotions and memories into a stimulating language of forms her hands work in tandem with her feelings endowing her with the unique ability to create objects that initially appear naïve and simplistic but in reality are psychologically complex and compelling.

As early as 2001, referencing her own childhood trauma of an unwelcome fourth daughter, she crafted a poignant floor piece, a motley group of stuffed handmade dolls hunched in a circle. With faces buried in their arms their heart wrenching act of lament, while assuaging her personal ordeal, voiced the pain of an unwanted, neglected and discriminated existence millions of females experience in this part of the world. Titled ‘My birth will take place a thousand times, no matter how you celebrate it’, this simple group of mourning women became an anchor piece for her subsequent shows, almost defining her stance on gender issues.

The current exhibition opens with yet another variation of the same title, a wall hanging implanted with scores of plaited heads, (not entirely dissimilar to the famed dolls of the Cabbage Patch Kids). Projected from behind the buried faces, when viewed in context, echo the same sentiments of hurt and pain as expressed in her original floor piece.

Decidedly more ruthless and direct in approach in ‘Unmonumental’ she seats a headless, tattered and bandaged female figure next to a head of a buffalo/cow. This identification of woman with a beast of burden again negates her ‘human’ status and lends credence to the fact that in primitive cultures women are treated as sheep and cattle. The woman like the domestic animal is also a provider of sustenance and gives at many levels.

In ‘I don’t remember when we separated’ Chisti ponders over woman’s fabled standing as a celestial goddess and how, why and when she fell from grace.

The chadoor/burqa as a confining shroud for a woman is an image that has been hacked to death by the western electronic and print media yet artists continue to add it to their repertoire. Chisti alludes to gender repression by sewing a series of minuscule burqas onto a large canvas titled ‘Landscape of a Prosperous Society’. Inspite of the triteness of the visual the intended barb still has a sting and the small fluttering burqas do manage to create an aesthetic presence.

In ‘For Sale’ ordinary vegetable and fruit baskets are filled with naked doll like bodies of women and burqas as saleable wares to highlight the weaker sex as a marketable commodity.

Exploring gender relationships and disparities in the light of personal experiences and traditional beliefs she often makes pertinent use of titles to evoke sympathy, bring humour, subversion and sarcasm to the viewing experience.

A male bridal turban crafted with sanitary napkins, thread and gold lace in ‘I love my prison, my prison loves me’ is a fetching yet bizarre ode to togetherness. Using scraps of cloth, thread, string, rope, wool and cotton in much the same manner as fine artists use knife, brush and oil on canvas the artist had executed a number of works that qualified as fibre and fabric paintings.

In ‘There is no hero’ a winged Buraq soars away from a charred landscape dotted with mutilated bodies alluding to the apparent disconnect between the divine script and barbaric human will. While not explicit the work mocks the ‘hero’ concept in a world shorn of idealism.

Reflecting the current fascination for oddities Chisti’s deftly formed black crows, a constant in her oeuvre, emit mixed signals of friend and foe. They are watchful, are always around, herald the arrival of guests but are also scavengers with predatory instincts.

Sculpture dormant for the last many years in our art milieu is being rejuvenated by new generation artists. Their free and fluent use of non traditional means has brought ‘contemporaniety’ to the genre and the role of women artists like Chisti and others of her class, is relevant. Focusing on issues of gender sensitivity and the fragility of human dignity they highlight a woman’s point of view. No longer insular the works also aspire for a global recognition.

Figurative expression is one of the dominant artistic modes of present times and it addresses ‘issues of the body’, as evident in the practice of artists such as Robert Gober, Cindy Sherman, Mike Kelley, Louise Bourgeois, Paul McCarthy, Tony Oursler, Janine Antoni and Alison Saar. Powerful figural art of any generation runs the risk of devolving into an overly general statement regarding the human ‘condition’. Today’s body-centric art can too easily be read as a response to a world mangled by power politics, ravaged by disease, paralysed by fear and depleted by an inability to give, understand and let live.

In issue based paintings and photographs, as well as sculpture using materials such as charred bodily remains, gnawed lard, wax, mannequin parts and stuffed clothing, this figurative art has depicted the human body as traumatized, fragmented and ‘sensorially’ deprived. Kiki Smith’s sculpture of a paper-thin foetus, for example, and another of a fruit basket filled with internal organs suggest a grim grappling with the body’s frailty and vulnerability.

Living, working and exhibiting abroad Chisti is familiar with prevalent art practices of this nature and draws influence from them in approach treatment and presentation. For the moment however, her work stems from personal experience and past identity. It still reflects her affiliation with her cultural roots. One hopes it will continue to do so.

An NCA graduate Chisti was artist in residence at Harris Art Museum in 2002 and has exhibited at a number of foreign venues. Her sculptures have been acquired by Walsh Gallery in Chicago, USA and Whitworth Art Gallery and Embroidery Gallery in the UK.



Ruby Chishti’s sculpture exhibition opened this week at the Canvas art gallery amid much fanfare. The exhibition—which featured the artist’s most popular and most personal works, such as ‘My birth will take place a thousand times no matter how you celebrate it’ and ‘Crows’— was aptly titled ‘There is no hero.’ “I chose this title for the exhibition because it emphasises the need for our society to move above our self-deprecating need for heroes and bring out the heroes within us,” explained the artist.

The works featured in this case were made of less permanent mediums than are commonly used. As one spectator observed, “it seems that the traditional mediums are not enough to signify the layers of meaning that Chishti wants to convey through her art.”

While talking to The News, the artist explained that her work addresses Pakistanis all over the world – people who are going through a difficult time as they are being called terrorists.

Chishti feels that “art is not just art but a continuous discourse carrying forward all that we have to say showing our side of the picture, our consciousness, our identity as Muslims, Pakistanis and human beings.”

While describing her work, ‘My birth…’ she said, “This piece highlights the story I was often told when growing up. As a fourth daughter born into my family, there was no cause for celebration and I was weighed down by my father’s disappointment. However, with my work, I have been able to surpass all that and I am reborn each day thanks to my work.”

Chishti alluded to her work while talking about herself and her life almost as if both were entwined. She pointed out the parallels running through the narrative of her life, her art and the world. For example, the sculpture ‘Weapon of mass destruction’ — depicting a new-born baby, with its umbilical cord still attached, made of stockings, polyester and threads – Chishti said that the piece elucidated the innocent and beautiful beginnings of every human being, and the fact that later the same baby then wages wars, loots and plunders as a grown up.

While explaining the rather unique choice of sanitary napkins as the material for ‘Armour’ — an incomplete piece also exhibited in Canada to emphasise the unfulfilling lives of Aids victims — Chishti said that she wanted to stress the importance of “fertility” in our lives.

Chishti said that her source of inspiration is her day-to-day experiences and recurring motifs such as living with a mother who was too weak to stand up for herself.

As far as the materials used are concerned, Chishti said that she has tried her best to put in a personal touch to her work by using bandages and fabrics in order to reach out to others. In fact, an art student at the exhibition concurred with this view, saying that one can feel the warmth emanating from Chishti’s work.

Chishti, while talking about the relationship between art and life, said that “We are all the same — human beings. If one of us can feel something and express it, hopefully others will also understand the difference.”





Creativity is central to Ruby; her quality of life depends on its existence and practice. Her work is deeply rooted in personal experience and past identity. As the fourth daughter of a traditional Pakistani family, her life was not considered valuable by those around her and her developing self-esteem suffered. Howe




ion, choosing to view this neglect as a perverse type of freedom. She filled the expanses of empty time with her passion for making things and used creative endeavour as a type of therapy. Later, as an artist attempting to find her own ocabulary, she recalled this experience of making dolls as a child and reverted to fashioning dolls out of scraps of cloth. Using dismembered old quilts and sacking, which she collects, her work bridges the gap between traditional dollresonance for her. The crow