Waseem Ahmed: Pious Fear

Ambika Rajgopal of Saffronart shares a note on Waseem Ahmed’s current exhibition in Geneva

London: Geneva’s Gowen Contemporary announced the first solo exhibition in Switzerland of the Pakistani miniaturist Waseem Ahmed. In 2010, his work had already been exhibited at Gowen Contemporary in a group show entitled Have I Ever Opposed You? New Art from India and Pakistan.

Fragmentation 7, Waseem Ahmed, Lot 140, Saffronart Autumn Art Auction

Fragmentation 7, Waseem Ahmed, Lot 140, Saffronart Autumn Art Auction. Image Credit: http://www.saffronart.com/auctions/PreWork.aspx?l=9132

Ahmed contemporizes the traditional miniature style of painting by addressing relevant ongoing issues. His previous works saw reinterpretations of traditional myths and legends, but in this series he tackles the subject of the female presence in a patriarchal authoritarian system. His use of delicate brush strokes and fine detailing, contrasts against the graphic designing of his work.

In the work above, the painting is stratified into three parts. The background staying true to the miniature style is rendered in delicate brushstrokes- foliage against an orange evening sky. The middle ground shows a sea of burka-clad women- an identity-less mass of blue. In the foreground that dominates more than half the painting, a silver wall stands, on which are embossed guns that on first sight might not be visible.  The work alludes to the atrocities against women behind the seemingly secure walls of home.

Untitled, Waseem Ahmed, Lot 137, Saffronart Autumn Art Auction

Untitled, Waseem Ahmed, Lot 137, Saffronart Autumn Art Auction. Image Credit: http://www.saffronart.com/auctions/PreWork.aspx?l=9129

Two of Waseem Ahmed’s works are being auctioned in Saffronart Autumn Online Auction on September 24-25 2013.

The exhibition will be on until October 18, for more information click here.

Ali Adil Khan’s Top 10 from the Art of Pakistan Auction (November 7-8, 2012)

Guest contributor and prolific collector, Ali Adil Khan picks his top works in Saffronart’s Art of Pakistan Auction 

Toronto: My top ten favorite works in the Art of Pakistan Auction have been listed in the slideshow below in order of priority and importance.

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All of the works I have selected are by Pakistani artists who have excelled in contemporary miniature art – in its development and global recognition. This movement is strong, grounded in tradition and has left its mark on the international art scene. The credit goes to the modern practitioners and teachers of miniature art. The oldest and most influential art school of the country, the National College of Arts (NCA) in Lahore, has been a cornerstone in identifying and developing next generation of artists. The Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture (IVS) in Karachi and the Beaconhouse National University (BNU) in Lahore have also established world class programs in fine arts. These institutions offer highly sought after programs in miniature painting that attract the best and the brightest, channel their creativity and challenge their thinking in ways that equip them to push defined boundaries. They subvert traditional practices, innovate and deconstruct miniature paintings to reinvent and revive a movement that we all know as neo-miniature (contemporary miniature) style of painting. Zahoor ul Akhlaq, Salima Hashmi, Ustad Bashir Ahmed, Imran Qureshi, Muhammed Zeeshan and Sumaira Tazeen, among other established artists and faculty of these institutions have been instrumental in paving the road for the next generation of artists. Some stalwarts included in this Auction clearly standout. Shahzia Sikander, Saira Wasim, Nusra Latif Qureshi, Talha Rathore, Waseem Ahmed, Hasnat Mahmood and Khadim Ali.

I have chosen Zahoor’s Farman (Lot 3) as my favorite because of its importance in setting an early direction for the movement. It is composed in the confines of the borders of a traditional miniature painting, yet it is highly contemporary. It is a painting of significant importance given that it is referenced by two important scholars of Pakistani art – Dr. Akbar Naqvi and Roger Connah. The influence of Zahoor on the contemporary art of Pakistan is unquestionable.

Khadim Ali’s painting (Lot 55) incorporates the on-going conflict in Afghanistan and references the destruction of the Bamian Buddhas as well as the prosecution of local Hazaras by the Taliban.

Asif Ahmed’s (Lot 58) versatility and command over detail impresses me. Ayesha Durrani’s painting (Lot 67) is from a series that I have always admired. Her detailing and composition is excellent.

As they say – the devil is in the detail. To read more on my views on contemporary miniature art from Pakistan, click here.

Ali Adil Khan is a prolific Toronto based collector and expert of South Asian art and antiquities. Khan has organized numerous exhibitions of South Asian Art in North America including  “Image and Identity: Being Ethnic” and “Cosmic Energy and Tantric Enlightenment: Art of Youngo Verma” which have received widespread critical acclaim. He has contributed notable articles on South Asian art to leading dailies including The Dawn Online Edition and Newsline of Pakistan. He has also been invited to share his expertise at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, Art Gallery of Mississauga and the 14th Asian Art Biennale in Dhaka, amongst others. Khan is a guest contributor for the Saffronart blog.

Miniatures: Survival of a Revival

Guest blogger, Ali Adil Khan shares his views on contemporary miniature paintings from Pakistan

Lot 21- Rehana Mangi, 3 Figures (Gadrang)
Art of Pakistan Auction (November 7-8, 2012)

Toronto: We are experiencing a modern revival of the miniature painting tradition that is unrivaled. This contemporary miniature art movement, emanating from a premier art institute of Pakistan, while being firmly grounded in tradition, has taken post-modern art by storm. It has a serious following locally and internationally and enjoys the support of curators, gallery owners, critics and collectors alike.

This movement is strong, moving rapidly, and is sure to leave its mark on the international art scene. The credit goes to the modern practitioners and teachers of miniature art. Early visionaries at the National College of Arts (NCA) in Lahore, Zahoor ul Akhlaq, followed by Salima Hashmi, Bashir Ahmed and Imran Qureshi have believed in the talents of their students and designed an ingenious curriculum and an exigent training program that continues to bring the best out of them.

Some of these industrious students have become leading proponents of contemporary miniature art around the world with a broad private and institutional following.

Lot 30 – Shazia Sikander, Let It Ride # 3, 1997
24 Hour Auction: Art of Pakistan (Nov. 7-8, 2012)

Some stalwarts clearly standout. Shahzia Sikander was the first to breakaway from the miniature tradition, and helped establish an art form that is now known and recognised as contemporary or neo-miniature painting. She remains the greatest of them all and there are only two ways to describe her art practice — brilliant and exquisite. She has now entered the mainstream of contemporary art internationally and is a recognised superstar.

Others, who followed her success, have held their values and traditional training central to their practice, not compromising them for quick buck. These trail blazers, who are now in the upper echelon of contemporary miniature art internationally include: Imran Qureshi, Tazeen Qayyum, Aisha Khalid, Talha Rathore, Nusra Latif Qureshi, Saira Wasim and Reeta Saeed. They can be referred to as the magnificent seven of NCA. Others who are fast catching up through their prolific practice, creative talents, and international exhibitions are Waseem Ahmed, Hasnat Mehmood, Khadim Ali, Muhammed Zeeshan and Sabeen Raja.

Lot 31 – Imran Qureshi, Moderate Enlightenment, 2007
24 Hour Auction: Art of Pakistan (Nov. 7-8, 2012)

While Imran Qureshi’s work on wasli exhibited in London, Hong Kong, and Oxford more recently continues to be very strong (as he can probably paint with his eyes closed — meant as a compliment), his site-specific wall paintings at the 1st Singapore Biennale in 2006 was most impressive. It was truly outstanding and definitely leading edge.

The contemporary miniature art market is cut throat to say the least. As a new breed of young artists jumps on the bandwagon, there are bound to be more failures than resounding successes. As experienced curators and discerning collectors closely examine and follow the emergence and development of this trend, they will critique the works of the artists. Any repetition, reproduction, stagnation, mediocrity will be severely penalised. It can be said with confidence that not all currently practicing contemporary miniature artists are good.

The ones that are good and with potential of becoming great, are the ones that are continuously experimenting and pushing the boundaries beyond the restrained borders of miniature paintings. For example, Tazeen Qayyum has consistently surpassed expectations of curators and collectors. In the late 1990s she incorporated borders made from collages of interesting newspaper cuttings and quickly moved away from figurative to contextual use of a motifs such as the veil and cockroach that enabled her to assert her socio-political views on the wasli. She experimented and employed the use of block printing, Xerox photo transfer, and digital techniques in her works of the early 2000s. In 2005, she pasted strands of her own long hair on the wasli. In 2006, Qayyum took wasli to a third dimension by adding labels and entomology pins to her work and changed the framing to box frames. Her depiction of the disgraceful human pyramid made forcibly at Abu Gharib Prison in Iraq using cockroaches with minute details was stunning to say the least.

Lot 45- Sumaira Tazeen, Moti Tanka (French Knot), 2008
Art of Pakistan Auction (November 7-8, 2012)

There are many more promising senior artists who can reach new heights through rigorous experimentation and an urge to push and re-invent the boundaries. They are Ambreen Butt, Sumaira Tazeen, Usman Saeed, Sherbano Qizilbash and Saira Sheikh. Curators and critics will watch them closely as they fulfil the much needed requirement to re-invent and progress.

The survival of the revival now solely rests in the capable hands of these practitioners and new comers into the field who must learn from the success of their predecessors and set high standards for themselves. They should not and must not expect to sell their works for exorbitant prices, as they first need to experiment, prove and establish their art practice. As collector of contemporary Pakistani art, London-based Kamran Anwar notes, “The Pakistani art market is clearly at an inflexion point. The contemporary miniature movement has led the way and holds a distinct place in the South Asian artistic landscape.

“The big challenge for these artists is to continue to innovate and create without falling into the temptation of doing the same thing again and again for short term commercial gains.”

Ali Adil Khan is a prolific Toronto based collector and expert of South Asian art and antiquities. Khan has organized numerous exhibitions of South Asian Art in North America including  “Image and Identity: Being Ethnic” and “Cosmic Energy and Tantric Enlightenment: Art of Youngo Verma” which have received widespread critical acclaim. He has contributed notable articles on South Asian art to leading dailies including The Dawn Online Edition and Newsline of Pakistan. He has also been invited to share his expertise at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, Art Gallery of Mississauga and the 14th Asian Art Biennale in Dhaka, amongst others. Khan is a guest contributor for the Saffronart blog.

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