Saturday, January 25, 2014

The Guardian on Waqas Khan

Waqas Khan continues to impress Artwallaa and the rest of the world. This article is a little dated but still wanted to post it in case you haven't seen it.

Source: The Guardian Jonathan Jones on art - BLOG

Waqas Khan: my art discovery of the year

There is cosmic majesty in this artist's sensational geometric works, and they've changed the way I think and see and live
The breath of compassionate, 2012, Waqas Khan
The Breath of the Compassionate, 2012, by Waqas Khan. Photograph: Waqas Khan
It was only at the end of 2013 that I encountered my artist of the year. Waqas Khan showed a work at the Frieze art fair this year but, I'm sad to say, I missed it in the hubbub. It was only when I saw his sensational, visonary art in the Jameel Prize at the V&A that I fell head over heels for an artist who reveals the unstable contours of all things.

Waqas Khan makes drawings that start as tiny precise circles and expand, circle by circle, to become vast fields of shimmering light and shade. He spends long hours hunched over big sheets of paper accumulating networks of dot-like marks. Every one has to look just right, and he mustn't spill any ink.

The fascinating thing about these ethereal abstract drawings is the tension between precision and freedom, discipline and chaos. Because every detail is done by hand and with the naked eye, each little constituent part is different. The patterns are mathematical and geometric and yet organic, unpredictable, flawed. Forms constellate and fade. There's a sense of cosmic majesty, as if we were observing an abstract vision of the birth and death of the universe.

Waqas Khan: Jameel Prize 3 from Victoria and Albert Museum on Vimeo.
Khan says his work is about love. When he was a child in a village in Pakistan, he would listen to village elders tell stories of Sufi saints. To him, the great quality of these saints was their universal love. He also says his art is an attempt – partly inspired by the Sufi tradition – to take people out of everyday life for just a few minutes and reveal some other plane of existence.

In other words, here is an artist who matters because he is trying to change how we think and see and live. Working in Lahore, he creates a truly global art whose abstract liberty is ecstatic and compelling.

Late in the year, Waqas Khan made me see again. He showed me that art has a purpose in the age of science and technology, for his magic geometries give life to the universe.

Rashid Rana's art in the city of the world's most majestic Duomo

After last year's successful mid-year retrospective at home, Rashid Rana has start 2014 with his first solo exhibition in Italy. The exhibition opened yesterday at Lisson Gallery in Milan, a city which has Artwallaa's favourite Duomo.

Source: Lisson Gallery, FB

War Within, C-print, 200 x 300 cm



Rashid Rana 24 January – 14 March 2014
Via Zenale 3, Milan

“My work is often a three-way negotiation between myself, my immediate physical surroundings and what I receive – whether through the Internet, books, history or collective knowledge.” Rashid Rana, ArtReview, 2013
Working with multifaceted, multiplied imagery, Rashid Rana splits the visible universe apart in order to remake it anew. In sculpture, video and photographic prints, Rana transforms snapshots of shop signs in Lahore into abstracted cityscapes or renders reproductions of Old Master paintings as digital fields of colour. Utilising the grid structure, the artist has recently begun to rearrange famous paintings such as The Rape of the Daughters of Leucippus (1618) by Peter Paul Rubens and the Oath of the Horatii (1786) by Jacques Louis-David, scrambling these famous compositions into pixelated and codified puzzles.


Rana’s splicing and stitching technique can be carnal and violent, as in this ongoing series of brutally lacerated and reassembled Baroque and Neo-classical paintings, collectively known as the Transliteration Series.

Notions of Narrations II 

228 x 323 cm

For his first solo exhibition in Italy, Rana has also reflected the legacy of the surrounding city in his source material, choosing paintings by artists hailing from Milan, such as Andrea Solari and Cesare da Sesto. While the originals are held in the Louvre in Paris and the National Gallery in London, Rana symbolically returns the images to the source of their creators, albeit visually distorted and temporally displaced in the process.

Stillness of Life, C-print, 172.5 x 105 cm

Rana complicates and realigns such divided notions as figuration and abstraction, manipulation and reality, but also succeeds in knocking the world off its axis and transcending both traditional and technological means of communication.


Milan's Duomo below ..... in case you were wondering !
File:Milan Cathedral from Piazza del Duomo.jpg
Source: Wikipedia


Pakistan visual arts never had a better year than 2013

By Artwallaa

Artwallaa believes that since the sixties, Pakistan visual arts never had a better year than 2013.

"Labyrinth of Reflections: The Art of Rashid Rana 1992 - 2012" is the best exhibition put up in Pakistan in the past decade (and perhaps one of the most under-marketed too). Source: Mohatta Palace.

The year started with the landmark retrospective of Rashid Rana at the Mohatta Palace. It is easily by far the best ever contemporary artists' exhibition put up in Pakistan (the only other coming close to this was Sadequain's Holy Sinner exhibited at the same venue in 2002.

Source: Mohatta Palace

The contrast in the venue and the art displayed couldn't be starker. Mohatta Palace is as old world as it gets; architecture/façade inspired by the stone palaces of Rajhistan, hand-dyed tiles, teak wood windows and multiples domes. The exhibition Mohatta Plalace is holding, Labyrinth of Reflections: The Art of Rashid Rana 1992 - 2012, is as cutting edge and contemporary as it could be. 

Source: Mohatta Palace

2013 nonetheless belongs to Imran Qureshi who was chosen for The Artist of the Year award by Deutsche Bank for 2013; an award which is awarded to an artist every year on a global basis and by a very prestigious group of international curators.


Mr Qureshi became not only the first Pakistan but also Asian to receive this award. The artist has never looked back since this announcement in the fourth quarter of 2012 and had been chosen for the Roof Top Commission at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met) in New York (which was independent of the Deutsche Bank award), a separate paintings exhibition at The Met and making it into several 'who is who' lists of international artists.
Photo: Photography by Hyla Skopitz, The Photograph Studio, The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Copyright 2013
Source: The Met

Other Pakistani artists who continued to make their presence felt on the global scene included Shazia Sikander and Aisha Khalid. Also, the size of the group of artists following the above four established artists continues to grow in 2013. Artists who made significant progress in spreading their wings beyond Pakistan include Khadim Ali, Adeel Zafar, Fahd Burki, Basir Mehmood, Atif Khan, Saira Wasim, Noor Ali, Faiza Butt, Waqas Khan and Risham Syed and many more.

Important year-to-date 2013 Pakistan Visual art events at the global level:

  • Rashid Rana Retrospective at the Mohatta Palace, Karachi - By far the best exhibition put up in Pakistan for any contemporary Pakistani artist and comparable to Sadequain's 'Holy Sinner' exhibited at the same venue in 2002.
  • Imran Qureshi - Deutsche Artist of the Year 2013 - Announcement, celebration and exhibition at the NCA. First Pakistan and Asian to be chosen for this award.
  • Naiza Khan's solo exhibition, "Karachi Elegies" opens at the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum, Michigan.
  • 2013 saw a resurgence of Pakistani artists' participation in Art Dubai, after a couple of years's nominal presence. Amongst the participants were Shahzia Sikander with her super-sized video installation at the Sharjah Biennial, Aisha Khalid whose artwork is believed to be picked up by a Saudi royalty, Fahd Burki who received the John Jones Art on Paper Award at the Fair and Basir Mehmood.
  • Imran Qureshi's Solo exhibition opens at the Kunstahalle in Berlin - as part of the Deutsche Artist of the Year activities. The exhibition opening night was attended by over 1000 people and there were reportedly queues ouside the museum in central Berlin. The exhibition which included Qureshi's new as well as old works, was accompanied by a very comprehensive monograph of the artists encompassing the entire body of his work.
  • Waqas Khan of NCA got short-listed for this year's Jameel Prize.
  • Imran Qureshi becomes the first Asian chosen for the Roof Top Commission at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC.
  • Art Basel Hong Kong had the largest ever representation of Pakistani artists in the Fair's history. Artists exhibiting at the Fair included Shahzia Sikander, Aisha Khalid, Addel Zafar, Imran Qureshi, Risham Syed, Atif Khan, Shezad Dawood, Faiza Butt, Khadim Ali and Imran Channa.
  • Venice Biennale opened in which Imran Qureshi's works were part of the Main Pavillion at the Arsenale and Faiza Butt's works were exhibited at a satellite event.
  • Imran Qureshi makes it into the Art+Auction's prestigious 50 Under 50: The Next Most Collectible Artists list for 2013. The magazine publishes its widely followed list in the middle of year and this is the first time that a Pakistani artist has made it to the list. Qureshi is also the only locally based artist from the sub-continent to make it to the list. Other artists with subcontinent connections are the London based Idris Khan and Raqib Shaw.
  • Imran Qureshi makes the list of 'The Most Important Artists of 2013 (so far)'. Mr Qureshi's inclusion brought himself and Pakistan right in the middle of the truly global contemporary artists. The list includes - Jean-Michel Basquiat, James Turrell, JR, Ai Weiwei, Paul McCarthy, Keith Haring, Jeff Koons, Donald Judd, Tino Sehgal, KAWS, Richard Mosse, Imran Qureshi, FAILE, Marina Abramovic, Barbara Kruger, Tom Friedman, Tracey Emin, El Anatsui, James Franco, Takashi Murakami, Marc Quinn, Kenny Scharf and Brian Eno. 
  • Imran Qureshi's exhibition of miniature paintings opens at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.


The Frieze 2013 and Pakistan: The Frieze Art Fair had a good representation of Pakistan artists including the likes of Imran Qureshi, Aisha Khalid, Shahzia Sikander to younger artists like Waqas Khan and Mehreen Mustaza.

A decade from now, 2013 will surely be seen as a watershed year in Pakistan's visual art history. I hope you enjoyed these developments in 2013 as much as Artwallaa did !

Your 'feeling very proud'



PS: To know more on why Artwallaa believes that the Pakistan visual art scene is in an irreversible upward pattern, read the following articles:
Bloomberg article on Pakistan art - stereotyped, shallow but ......
A Proud Milestone for Pakistan & Asian Art

PPS: If you think that our list above has missed out on any important Pakistani visual art development, then please do share with us. The more the merrier.


Saturday, January 4, 2014

4 Pakistani artists making art out of violence


Over the last ten years, Pakistan has suffered the most violent decade of its history. Now the country’s contemporary artists are challenging the devastation through their art.

Faced with a devastatingly violent socio-political environment, Pakistani artists are not only documenting the nation’s suffering, but also questioning the role of art in their country. Art Radar brings you four artists who have positioned themselves on the frontline of Pakistan’s violence.

Imran Qureshi, "Roof Garden Commission" (2013) at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Image courtesy Art Observed.
Imran Qureshi, “The Roof Garden Commission” (2013) at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Image courtesy Art Observed.

The past decade has been the most violent period in Pakistan’s already tumultuous history. The landscape has been splattered with the bloodshed caused by sectarian violence between Sunni and Shia Muslims, the post 9/11 War on Terrorism and the prevalence of extremist Islamic militants.
The condition of the nation has imbued the consciousness of its citizens and it is duly reflected in Pakistan’s art. A new wave of artists has gathered strength, all of whom delve into the problematised politics of Pakistan to create works that not only document the violence, but also attempt to subvert, question and challenge it.
Bani Abidi, 'Security Barrier Type A - Iranian Embassy, Shahrah-e-Iran, Clifton, Karachi', 2008, inkjet print, 28 x 44 cm. Image courtesy the artist.
Bani Abidi, ‘Security Barrier Type A – Iranian Embassy, Shahrah-e-Iran, Clifton, Karachi’, 2008, inkjet print, 28 x 44 cm. Image courtesy the artist.

History teaches us of the brutalising effects of violence, but with the rise of the internet and concomitant visual media saturation, it is possible that violent imagery may lose its potency. Karachi-based sculptor Durriya Kazi explains:
We watch Baghdad before, during and after its destruction and are embedded with journalists in the battlefields, the battle comes right into our homes through the screen or the newspaper. I am sure there are many like myself who are drowning or suffocating in the excess of these images.
In the age of visual excess, where it is so easy to become apathetic to the violence and loss of humanity, artists are reconsidering the way they respond to atrocities in their work. The following Pakistani artists are at the forefront of responding to violence. They create artworks that “engage with questions behind the entire machinery of terror, draw attention obliquely to realities of everyday life in the face of terror and thereby present creative responses,” according to artist Asma Mundrawala.

Rashid Rana, 'Red Carpet 1', 
2007, C-print on DIASEC, 241.3 x 317.5 cm, 
edition 1/5. 
Collection of Pallak Seth
Image. Image courtesy Gallery Chemould and Chattertjee & Lal, Mumbai.
Rashid Rana, ‘Red Carpet-1′, 
2007, C-print on DIASEC, 241.3 x 317.5 cm, 
edition 1/5. 
Collection of Pallak Seth
Image. Image courtesy Gallery Chemould and Chattertjee & Lal, Mumbai.

Imran Qureshi
Based in Lahore, Imran Qureshi formally trained in miniature painting at the National College of Arts. From his initial practice in miniature painting techniques to site specific installations on the rooftop of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, Qureshi has seen a lot of international exposure in recent years. He was awarded Deutsche Bank’s “Artist of the Year” in 2013 and has exhibited at Museo d’Arte Contemporanea Roma, Rome and Deutsche Bank Kunsthalle, Berlin.
Qureshi juxtaposes old Islamic forms of art against a contemporary context and thus makes his work relevant from an international standpoint. According to Deutsche Bank Kunsthalle’s press release,
In Qureshi’s work, an investigation into ornamentation is both a reference to tradition and a vehicle for criticism: of constricting role models, violent political and religious systems, stereotypes, and conventions. His art delves into the constant alternation between violence and hope, destruction and creation, and calls for peaceful resistance and optimism in difficult times.
Bani Abidi, 'Security Barrier Type B - Near the American Consulate, Abdullah Haroon Rd, Karachi', 2008, inkjet print, 28 x 44 cm. Image courtesy the artist.
Bani Abidi, ‘Security Barrier Type B – Near the American Consulate, Abdullah Haroon Rd, Karachi’, 2008, inkjet print, 28 x 44 cm. Image courtesy the artist.

Qureshi has made red acrylic his weapon of choice, powerfully using the colour to depict the bloodshed caused by violence. In his “Roof Garden Commission”, on view from 14 May to 3 November 2013 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Qureshi has extended this blood red motif into intricately painted foliage patterns.
Although undoubtedly bloody, Qureshi’s red works also symbolise something more positive:
These forms stem from the effects of violence. They are mingled with the colour of blood, but, at the same time, this is where a dialogue with life, with new beginnings and fresh hope, starts.
Abdullah M. I. Syed, 'Rug of Drones', 2011, installation from "The Rising Tide" at Mohatta Palace Museum. Image courtesy the artist and Al Jazeera.
Abdullah M. I. Syed, ‘Rug of Drones’, 2011, installation from “The Rising Tide” at Mohatta Palace Museum. Image courtesy the artist and Al Jazeera.

Abdullah M. I. Syed
Karachi-born Abdullah Syed is a mixed media artist whose work is full of political expression and innate symbolism. His work has been exhibited internationally in Bangladesh, Sharjah, the United States, Hong Kong, the United Kingdom, India, New Zealand, Australia and Pakistan. Syed divides his time between living and working in his hometown and Sydney.
In the exhibition “The Rising Tide: New Direction in Art From Pakistan 1990-2010“, Syed’s installation Flying Rug of Drones features an overhanging assembly of drones constructed out of the blades of box cutters. These drones are the most discernible symbol of the war on terror, extensively employed by the American army to fire missiles at militants in Pakistan’s tribal zones. Commenting on these attacks Syed said, “Although in the West the drones are often seen as an essential element in the fight against terrorism, in Pakistan they are considered imperial interference by the United States.”

Since 2004 more than 1000 civilians have been killed and wounded by drone attacks. This has lead to a sharp rise in the influx of civilians from tribal areas into urban cities, which has further increased the political tension within the country. According to Syed, “Flying Rug of Drones is a work that ‘aesthetically’ and perhaps ‘poetically’ talks about the history of destruction, menace of war and a wish to be free.”
Bani Abidi, 'Security Barrier Type G - Traffic Police, Karachi', 2008, inkjet print, 28 x 44 cm. Image courtesy the artist.
Bani Abidi, ‘Security Barrier Type G – Traffic Police, Karachi’, 2008, inkjet print, 28 x 44 cm. Image courtesy the artist.

Bani Abidi
Bani Abidi, born in 1971, is a Karachi-based contemporary artist whose video works have garnered much international acclaim. A graduate from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Abidi’s video works have been exhibited at Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, Whitechapel Art Gallery, dOCUMENTA (13) and the Tenth Lyon Biennale amongst many others. Abidi lives and works in Karachi and Delhi.

The interplay between the refuge of private space versus the violence-ridden public spaces in Pakistan is a recurring theme in Abidi’s work. Drawing from a biographical reality of working between two countries which share a conflicted history, her work Security Barriers A-L (2008) feature twelve prints depicting the cameras that monitor borders. According to The Global Contemporary, “Abidi employs temporary architectural elements for an analysis of political manifestations of state violence, the maintenance of state power, and national strategies of demarcation.

In her video works one of the most noticeable features is Abidi’s creation of fictional characters in order to vocalise her apprehensions towards socio-political concerns. At dOCUMENTA (13), she displayed the video work entitled Death at a 30 Degree Angle, which featured a fictionalised politician and his utter confusion at which stance to adopt for his portrait statue.

Bani Abidi, 'Death at a 30 Degree Angle', 2012, installation view at Documenta 13, double channel video installation. Photo © Jörg Zimmermann, Stylepark. Image courtesy Jörg Zimmermann, Stylepark.
Bani Abidi, ‘Death at a 30 Degree Angle’, 2012, installation view at dOCUMENTA (13), double channel video installation. Photo © Jörg Zimmermann, Stylepark. Image courtesy Jörg Zimmermann, Stylepark.

Rashid Rana
Rashid Rana is perhaps Pakistan’s most prominent contemporary artist. Born in Lahore, the artist graduated from Massachusetts College of Art in Boston. Since then, Rana has embraced a multitude of media ranging from video performance to photo mosaics. His work has been internationally exhibited in institutions such as Whitechapel Gallery, Saatchi Gallery and Singapore Art Museum.
According to the Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art website,
Fascinated by how meaning is often misunderstood in our media-oriented society, Rana’s photographic practice creates images that offer a different view of how popular ideas and stereotypes are created. His art investigates the representation of reality, as well as the politics of gender, violence and authenticity in the age of global communication.
Rashid Rana, 'Red Carpet 1', 
, C-print on DIASEC
, 241.3 x 317.5 cm, edition 1/5. Collection of Pallak Seth
Image. Image courtesy of Gallery Chemould and Chattertjee & Lal, Mumbai.
Rashid Rana, ‘Red Carpet-1′, 
, C-print on DIASEC
, 241.3 x 317.5 cm, edition 1/5. Collection of Pallak Seth
Image. Image courtesy of Gallery Chemould and Chattertjee & Lal, Mumbai.

Rana is renowned for his composite images, which explore the dualities between violence and our desensitised attitudes towards it. From afar these works appear to be one large image, but on closer inspection multiple pixel-like images reveal themselves.
Red Carpet-1 (2007) is one such work, stirred by the untimely assassination of the Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. At first glance the work appears to depict a traditional Pakistani carpet, but a closer look reveals that the work is actually made up of images of brutal animal slaughter. One edition of Red Carpet-1 became the highest selling artwork by a Pakistani artist at the Sotheby’s New York May 2008 auction, selling for a record price of USD623,000.
Ambika Rajgopal

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Imran Qureshi goes main stream with 12 million views !

I know this is a little dated but I didn't realise it will have 12mn views/copies and that this has been chosen as the final art commission for the 150th anniversary !

Dare I say (again), a sign of a great artist is when his/her art leaves the purview of the 'rarefied' group of art aficionados into the main stream of the public view.

Imran Qureshi Designs Pocket Tube Map For 150 London Underground Anniversary

Imran Qureshi Designs Pocket Tube Map For 150 London Underground Anniversary - ArtLyst Article image
Source: artlyst
The final art commission of London Underground’s 150th anniversary year has been revealed. It is the new edition of the Pocket Tube map released in time Christmas, which will have a cover by Imran Qureshi commissioned through Art on the Underground.

Possibly one of the most widely viewed art commissions in the world, 12 million copies are distributed throughout the London tube network. For his cover artwork, entitled All Time Would be Perpetual Spring, Qureshi has used the techniques of traditional Mughal miniature painting from his native Pakistan to present an intricate floral design for each line on the network, inspired by their distinct colours.

Speaking about the commission, Imran Qureshi said: “I was inspired by a life, an activity, and an amazing energy going on hundreds offeet down below the ground. Each colour represents life -  colourful flora which are growing and creating a completely new atmosphere and a positive energy.”

Imran Qureshi lives in Lahore, Pakistan, where he teaches at the National College of Art. In his paintings and installations, he combines the centuries-old Islamic art form of miniature painting with conceptual approaches and elements of contemporary abstract painting. His work is currently on show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Roof Garden Commission, until February 2014) and he has recently shown at the 55th Venice Biennale (The Encyclopedic Palace). Among his international exhibitions in 2014, his work will be presented as part of the Ikon Gallery’s 50th anniversary.

Head of Art on the Underground, Tamsin Dillon, said: "Qureshi has made a fantastic work for the new pocket Tube map; I love the way it references the actual London Underground map with its vibrant colours inspired by the various Tube lines.

This new artwork works brilliantly on this traditional ‘hands-on’ guide to the Tube. This format has proved to be a challenging and inspiring way for 19 artists so far to respond to the Tube and it works really well amongst the range of ways that people can access travel information on the Underground."

Over the course of 2013, Art on the Underground initiated a series of major new commissions for the London Underground’s 150th Anniversary. These include Mark Wallinger’s Labyrinth, the largest commission ever to a single artist for a new permanent work for all 270 stations on the London Underground; 15 for 150 – fifteen new tube posters designed by Pablo Bronstein, Melissa Gordon, Runa Islam, Idris Khan, Sarah Lucas, Goshka Macuga, Robert Orchardson, Martha Rosler, Nedko Solakov, Frances Stark,, Corin Sworn, Wolfgang Tilmans, Gillian Wearing, Lawrence Weiner and Haegue Yang; Harold Offeh’s Transporter on the central line; a new season of works as part of Canary Wharf Screen; and the Labyrinth engagement programme, a series of talks, interactive workshops and children’s projects across London led by Marina Warner, Mark Wallinger, Chris Budd and Peter York.

Since 2004, Art on the Underground has commissioned 18 previous tube map covers from leading contemporary artists. Other artists in the series: Jeremy Deller (with Paul Ryan), Tracey Emin, Liam Gillick, MonaHatoum, Gary Hume, Emma Kay, Yayoi Kusama,  Barbara Kruger, Richard Long, Michael Landy, Sarah Morris, Paul Noble, Cornelia Parker, Eva Rothschild, Yinka Shonibare MBE, David Shrigley, Mark Wallinger and Pae White.


Khadim Ali in Hong Kong

It felt like Khadim Ali had literally taken over the art waves in Hong Kong in the past two months. The artist was part of Asia Society's exhibition, "No Country: Contemporary Art for South and Southeast Asia", delivered at artist talk, held residencies for children, ran Themed Family Workshop: Storytelling and Art Khadim Ali, was covered in the Asia Art Pacific magazine and held a Solo Exhibition in Hong Kong at Gandhara-art Space.

Artwallaa has been tracking this artist for over 8 years now and the more Artwallaa reads/listens/watches this artist, the more impressed Artwallaa becomes. Artwallaa believes that Khadim Ali has the near perfect mix to become a 'big' artist - a strong technique/ artistic capability, discipline to apply this capability rigorously and consistently, to have the intellect and creativity to conceptualise and implement strong ideas, and to have the personality to drive home a strong story (message) (btw, Artwallaa believes that these four variables/characteristics, in their generic sense, are key to becoming successful in any profession).

Add to this mix his background - belonging to a community which is being ruthlessly persecuted and the Afghan connection - he is bound to get attention.

Put this artist on your radar .... if you already haven't

Click here to watch the lecture

 Khadim Ali's residency programs at Asia Society - Source: Asia Society

Interview: In Conversation Khadim Ali (Asia Society)

December 2, 2013, by Natalie Lai
Khadim Ali is a contemporary Pakistani artist who lives and works in Sydney, Quetta and Kabul. His work is featured in No Country: Contemporary Art for South and Southeast Asia the inaugural Guggenheim UBS MAP Global Art Initiative touring exhibition, which is currently being presented at the Asia Society Hong Kong until 16 February 2013.

The title of Khadim Ali’s Rustam Series (2011–12) references the hero of the Persian Shahnameh (Book of Kings) in Ferdowsi’s 11-century epic poem. Ali’s paintings recall only his name, alluding instead to the displacement and persecution of the Hazara minority in Afghanistan and Pakistan, a community to which Ali traces his heritage.

Q: Your family left Afghanistan at a turbulent period in the country’s history. How does this affect your feelings towards the country and your place of birth?
A: My family left Afghanistan in the 1890s when the first grand massacres of Hazara started by King Amir Abdul Rahman and he massacred over 62% of the entire population of Hazaras and captured their land and took their children and ladies as slaves and sold Hazaras to India – almost 10 000 Hazaras were sold to India and all the taxes were given to the government. So it was then my grandparents left Afghanistan and moved to India, before the partition of Pakistan in India, so they chose to live at the border of Pakistan and Afghanistan with the hope that someday Afghanistan will be a free land and they are going to claim their land back, but it never happened.

Q: Hong Kong is a very multi-cultural city, home to over 7 million people of many nationalities. What are your impressions of the city?
A: I felt like everything is pointing skywards and it’s like a compressed version of New York and I was thinking I am going to have extreme problems here because I don’t speak Mandarin or Cantonese, but then almost every second person is a really good English speaking person.

Q: What do you hope audiences will take away from your work? 
A: When audiences ask me what is the meaning of that particular artwork, I always think that a work of art is like a poem – when you read a poem, a poem is so versatile, you just own it and personalize it. It goes into your very personal moments and stays in you, if you like, and you translate it according to your own feeling. I think a work of art – of visual art – should be like that and having that versatility of a poem or versatility of music.

Q: Your work is informed and inspired by storytelling and ancient texts – could you elaborate on that?
A: I don’t want people to come in and look at the work the way I am looking at the work. They are free to have whatever meaning they want to – my work is part of my life and part of my career with the storytelling culture but my work is not a story. There is no story behind the work. I think there shouldn’t be any story behind any visual artwork – it should be as free as music, it should have the versatility of music.

Q: Which artists inspire you?
A: I always ask myself which artists I am inspired by but I only look at my work and can say which artists I am inspired by. I am inspired by the 15 century old master Muhammad Siyah Qalam who was also painting demons and I am really inspired by his works.

 Click here to read more on the subject: Pakistan in Hong Kong through Asia Society