Visual artist, private art teacher and art writer Shanzay Subzwari discusses what made London Met's School of Art, Architecture and Design stand out in particular when she was looking for MFA courses from her home in Pakistan.
Can you tell us why you chose to study at London Met?
I am from Karachi, Pakistan, and have had a full-time art studio practice for the last five years. I began writing and exhibiting my artwork when I was a Fine Art BA student in Karachi. I have exhibited my work in the various cities of Pakistan, as well as in Istanbul and London.
I chose to study at London Met because it was a great choice for my master's – it has a very high-ranking art course in the UK (No. 4), and the website made me realise that the University has a feel-good and academically astute vibe. The art school in particular has a great reputation for experimentation and subversive thinking.
What made you choose London / the UK in particular?
I feel privileged to have received a Chevening Scholarship, graciously funded by the UK Government, also partly funded by London Met and I cannot be more grateful. This allows me to study art in a city that possesses some of the best museums and art galleries in the world – no better place than London for that!
Can you tell us a bit more about where you are living whilst you study and what you like about it?
I am living in postgraduate accommodation in Bloomsbury called Goodenough College, which is the best thing to happen to me in London apart from studying at London Met as a Chevening scholar. This accommodation has a history dating back to the 1930s, and is built on the Oxbridge model of the college, with its academic committees, halls of residence, dining facilities and intellectual, cultural and social activities. Goodenough College has allowed me to meet and befriend very many people from different universities and nationalities, and along with London Met, has shaped my experience of London into something incredible so far.
What are the facilities like at London Met?
They are very good overall! The School of Art, Architecture and Design has amazing studios and facilities for different departments (eg photography, printmaking and fine art). So far, I have only used the art facilities at Calcutta House, however, those in the different buildings appear to be quite impressive as well.
What do you like best about your course?
There are only seven people in my MFA class. At first, I was unsure as to how this would work; however, it turned out to be a blessing as all seven of us have formed an incredibly strong bond in just two months. We also have a great one-on-one relationship with our tutors, all of whom we greatly appreciate and value. I feel that this close connection with ones’ tutors as well as with one another can be a rare thing to have in art schools here in London, where there can be up to forty students or more in an MFA class.
Did anything surprise you about your course or London Met?
I like the fact that there is a great focus on opening ones’ mind and establishing newer ways of thinking in my course. Alongside, there is an equal emphasis on relaxing and easing into learning, rather than creating a fixed volume of skilful work that will be graded. In effect, and perhaps with reason, this aspect is different from my undergraduate fine art degree.
What makes you love living in London?
I love the independence I have here, the never-ending list of things to experience, the winding roads and small alleyways that always hold surprises, the history that goes back decades, and the knowledge that here one can chance upon someone well-known, anytime. I have read an abundance of literature based in London and seen so many films and television shows set here – and being here reminds me of all those things. My mind often imagines what it would have been like to live here in the past.
On a weekend, I like to go out to a touristy destination, park or market with my friends. However, if I’ve had a very busy week then I prefer to relax in my accommodation and attend the weekend meetups there.
Have you found it easy to make friends at London Met?
My classmates and I are already great friends. We tour London, go for curry and coffee and visit galleries together, as well as give each other advice on personal issues. It’s interesting because we’re all at different ages and stages of life, yet it took us only about a month to get to this point!
What are your career plans? How do you think London Met is helping you achieve these?
As stated in my Chevening essay, my goal is to go back to Pakistan and give back in the academic arena via workshops, gallery talks and teaching stints in order to expand people’s minds about art and critical thinking.
London Met has provided me with the tools to harbour and hone my ideas, think outside the box, create openly and experiment. This will help me expand my art practice and writing, and bring new ideas into my various ventures back in Pakistan.