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Pattern to Follow

Pattern to Follow
gouache and gold leaf on wasli
50 x 35 ½ in. (127 x 90.2 cm.)
Executed in 2009
Corvi Mora Gallery, London
Acquired from the above by the present owner, 2010
Pattern to Follow, Aisha Khalid, exhibition catalogue, Hong Kong, 2010, p. 25 (illustrated)
London, Corvi Mora Gallery, Aisha Khalid, Imran Qureshi, 14 January - 6 March 2010
Hong Kong, The Pao Galleries, Hong Kong Art Centre, Pattern to Follow, Aisha Khalid, 22 April - 8 May 2010
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Contemporary artistic production in Pakistan over the last two decades represents a cauldron of creativity, with a distinct DNA. Perhaps the most distinct and significant contribution has been the revival and reinterpretation of Mughal miniature painting and its successors.
The roots of this revival may be found in A.R. Chughtai’s work.“The artist Chughtai initiated this [revival] when he started to reorient his “Indian painting” towards consciously Islamic styles. Although he had no immediate followers, since the 1980s a new group of artists inspired by Chughtai’s works has started to produce playfully subversive miniature paintings.” (I. Dadi, Miniature Painting as Muslim Cosmopolitanism, Islamic Art and Architecture, 2011, p. 1)
It was at the National College of Art (NCA) in Lahore, under the guidance of artist professor Zahoor ul Akhlaq, who was interested in both the pedagogy and the aesthetic frameworks of Mughal miniature paintings, that a generation of what are now called the Neo-Miniaturists emerged. Zahoor ul Akhlaq studied at the Royal College of Arts in London and was exposed to the collection of miniature paintings at the Victoria & Albert Museum there. His experience in London inspired him to propose a new aesthetic in miniature painting that involved blending traditional styles with Western sensibilities by adopting postmodern materials and innovations. This approach resonated with artists such as Shahzia Sikander (lot 75) Waseem Ahmed (lot 70) , Ayesha M. Durrani (lot 74), Aisha Khalid, Imran Qureshi (lot 68) and Nusra Latif Qureshi (lot 73). Their works range from intricately rendered floral and decorative motifs on wasli paper to mixed media works and conceptual installations, creating a new genre that has come to be known as the Neo–Miniature.
This formal genre was taught at the National College of Art by artisans who were trained court painters. Today, the discipline is taught by former students such as Imran Qureshi. Students are still made to go through the rigorous training of preparing materials like the wasli paper, creating their own natural pigments as well as making their brushes using hair from a squirrel’s tail. This in-depth training provides these contemporary artists with the technical skill set of a traditional miniaturist.
The Neo-Miniaturists have transformed this art form into a cutting-edge modernist platform to convey contemporary themes, such as politics, gender identity, spirituality and the self. Other NCA artists who have also been exposed to miniature painting and borrow heavily from it include Noor Ali Chagani, Ali Kazim (lot 72), Waqas Khan (lot 67) and Mohammad Ali Talpur (lot 71). These artists also trained under the notable Zahoor ul Akhlaq and employ the act of repetition as key mode of expression in their works.“By using the “obsolete” painting techniques in depicting familiar political themes, important questions are raised about the, “reality” of the media imagery that surrounds us.” (I. Dadi, Miniature Painting as Muslim Cosmopolitanism, Islamic Art and Architecture, 2011, p. 1) There is also a group of Pakistani artists that are intrigued by the artistic potential of new mediums and are constantly experimenting with new technologies. Rashid Rana (lot 69) and Bani Abidi (lot 77) both employ innovative conceptual strategies and digital technologies in their work.

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