Asked about the influences on her art, Fatima Ahmed names Gaughin, Cezanne, Van Gogh ("whom I admire, but who did not really influence my work") and, most importantly, Modigliani. "At my first Bombay show in 1962, the critics referred to me as the female Modigliani. I was very taken by his elongated figures." After painting for forty years, however, no single influence remains to be seen in her work; rather, Ahmed has forged her own unique style. A consistent element has been placement of the single feature in a painting with a great deal of open space. "I dislike crowded compositions", she says. Recently, she finished a painting with the two figures, but she stresses "even there, there was still a lot of space."
Speaking on her use of light, she explains, "Light can make a lot of difference to a work. The light created within a painting is part of the tonal effects. I always leave certain portions of the canvas light, absolutely white. I am very particular about this, and my finishing touches will sometimes take more than ten days. Subtlety in painting in crucial to me -I want my paintings to be like whispers, not loud cries."
Asked about the changes in her work, she says that the first figures were "sculptural", with a dark background, and defined by lines of strong light. Recently such harsh lines have fallen away, and she describes a new lightness in her painting, coupled with the absence of definite lines. "The figure dissolves into the background, the background dissolves, into the figure-there is more of an interplay now." Ahmed tends to work on a single painting at a time, explaining that "I must finish a painting before I can move on." Ahmed continues to work with the technique of floating colors, a process which is quite time consuming. "I cannot correct a painting, because it would create a thickness to the canvas and my aim is transparency. So I cannot paint absent-mindedly."
Asked about her goals for the future works, she mentions that she is considering return to watercolors. "In 1990, when I returned to painting after a gap, I showed water colors for the first time. But after that, I returned to oils, which was my first love." Recently, however, she has been looking through her unfinished water colors, as well as contemplating a mixed media project that would combine water colors, gouache, and ink on handmade paper, on a large scale. "This has been brewing in my imagination for some time," she says.