Thursday, August 4, 2016

Abdullah Syed in Australia


Fairfield gallery hosts exhibition from Pakistani-born artist

Artist Abdullah M.I. Syed shares his time between Sydney, Karachi and New York. Picture: Mim Stirling

Pakistani-born artist Abdullah M.I. Syed’s first solo art exhibition in Sydney is a very personal one. Substitute: The Untold Narrative of a Mother and Son, explores the relationships between his mother and her four migrant children.
media_cameraAbdullah M.I. Syed and his work The Portrait of Azra. Picture: Mim Stirling 
The creative process included a trip to Pakistan, where Syed sourced objects and clues from his past.
He also developed a community outreach program in Sydney — which expanded to wider Australia, Pakistan and the US — that invited men to share their memories of their mothers.

Syed said his family’s response to the exhibition had been“overwhelmingly encouraging”.
“My mother is delighted to see the catalogue and images and responded that finally part of her story has been told,” he said.

The artist said he was excited to see his exhibition travel to the Canvas Gallery in Karachi, Pakistan next year.

“That is when my parents will view the works—I cannot wait.”

The exhibition closes at the Fairfield City Museum and Gallery on August 6

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Imran Qureshi in Bradford


Sunday, July 31, 2016

Khadim Ali exhibiting in Australia

Refugee art: a way to face up to ugly truths – and possibly change minds

30 July, 2016

Source: Guardian 

Exhibitions in Sydney and Melbourne seek to humanise asylum seekers, so they are not viewed exclusively ‘through the lens of their past suffering’

Khadim Ali remembers the day he started to receive death threats. Anonymous callers would ring the young artist in his hometown of Quetta, Pakistan. “You are the infidel Shia,” they said. “You are the infidel artist.”

“It was then I decided to leave Pakistan and find a safer place for myself,” says Ali. “Because of my ethnicity I was a constant target.”

In 2009 Ali – who has been collected by the likes of the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Guggenheim – moved to Australia permanently on a distinguished talent visa. His mother and father, exiled Hazaras whose own parents fled bloody persecution in Afghanistan in the 1890s, joined him as refugees in 2012. Their house in Quetta old town had been bombed in a car suicide attack that left them seriously injured, their home destroyed, and 14 dead.

“I feel like we have a new life, a better and peaceful life here,” says Ali, 38. “My parents are not concerned about me leaving home in the morning.”

Friday, March 25, 2016

Hong Kong retrospective for Shahzia Sikander, subverter of art’s conventions


The US-based Pakistani artist, who likes to give classic art forms a contemporary twist, is the focus of an Asia Society exhibition focusing on her progression as a painter
PUBLISHED : Monday, 21 March, 2016, 8:01pm
UPDATED : Monday, 21 March, 2016, 8:55pm
The Asia Society in Hong Kong is staging a major retrospective of the art of Shahzia Sikander, one of the most versatile visual artists working today and recipient of the society’s award for significant contribution to contemporary art last year.
Sikander, who is Pakistani but based in the United States, first came to Hong Kong in 2009, when Para Site showed a selection of her videos. This exhibition is far broader, and focuses on her progression as a painter.
A still from Parallax (2013).

Sikander’s practice has always been grounded in drawing, and that is obvious even in the large animation called Parallax. The rich, animated imageries that she created for the 2013 Sharjah Biennial were scanned from small drawings that recall her training in Indo-Persian miniature painting.
Her work is often both a tribute to that classic art form and a challenge to its conventions. One of the earliest works on show in Hong Kong is The Scroll, from 1989-91. As the title suggests, this work is a long, horizontal scroll, which already departs from the usual diminutive format of miniatures.
She also abandoned the form’s classical heroic subject matter and opted to depict the life of a contemporary Pakistan household, based on Sikander’s own upbringing.
In each room, members of the extended family can be seen doing perfectly normal things, like packing to go on holiday or checking the contents of the refrigerator. The fine, detailed outlines, vivid colours and multiple vantage points chime with tradition; a red fence behind the house – a repeated motif in her work – represents a continuing narrative with links to history.
The Scroll, (1989-91).

History flows strongly throughout her work. It is in the brown tint of the paper used for The Scroll, stained as it is with tea, a commodity inseparable from British colonial power; in the figure of The Company Man who shows up repeatedly in her work, a pot-bellied employee of the East India Company who helped build an empire; in the Hindu icons she appropriates, images that would have been radical when she was growing up under the military dictatorship of President Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq, who was intent on Islamising Pakistan.
At the same time, a counter narrative provided by Sikander’s personal history often challenges the generality of the big historic backdrops. The artist grew up a Muslim, attended a Catholic school, and was fortunate to come from a liberal, well-educated household that believed in empowering its women despite General Zia’s introduction of new ways to oppress women.
“In public, the whole country was being homogenised at a time when a lot of different people had just moved to Pakistan after Partition [in 1947, when Pakistan and India were created with British India’s independence]. For example, religion was being institutionalised. But in private, it was very different,” she says.
She also found when she moved to theUS in the 1990s that she wasn’t fitting into easy categories either. “I decided the experience of the diaspora wasn’t for me. It was my choice to move there. I am comfortable in my skin. It’s only a slight dislocation,” she says.
A Slight and Pleasing Dislocation (1993).

And so she painted A Slight and Pleasing Dislocation (1993), an abstract figure of a woman floating through a dark space that bears little resemblance to earlier works. That a Pakistani would use the two words – pleasing and dislocation – together is pointed, given the deep scars left behind by Partition.
“My grandparents made a lot of sacrifices because of Partition and I grew up listening to them talking about it and I respect that,” the artist says. “Personally, Partition has also meant that I couldn’t go to India to study the miniatures there, and it’s been very difficult for me. Segregation also heightened the sense of the other.”
The one good thing about what one of the faux propaganda posters in the show describes as “a spontaneous response to a difficult situation” is that Muslims like herself can grow up as first-class citizens, she adds.
That figure in the 1993 work, partly inspired by her exposure to graffiti artists and wall paintings in America, keeps surfacing in subsequent works.
Like the Company Man, it is just one of a number of memorable symbols she employs. Another one is the gopi’s hair – the topknot worn by a female follower of the Hindu deity Krishna. In her paintings and in animations, the gopi’s hair has a life of its own, often flying in flocks, like crows, giving new associations to yet another traditional icon
A still from The Last Post (2010).

She has observed that Hong Kong is struggling to define its relationship with its colonial history. “It is inevitable that we will always be casting for a relationship with the colonisers. But post-colonialism is like the nature of my work. Fluidity is part of it,” she says.
A section of her work is also being shown at the Hong Kong Maritime Museum, an apt setting for her contemplation of empire, trade and the fluidity of identities.
Shahzia Sikander: Apparatus of Power, Chantal Miller Gallery, Asia Society Hong Kong Centre, 9 Justice Drive, Admiralty, Tue-Sun, 11am-6pm and 11am-8pm during Art Basel Hong Kong (Mar 22-26). Ends July 9

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

At Dhaka Art Summit, artists from Pakistan came out in full force

At Dhaka Art Summit, artists from Pakistan came out in full force

In its third edition, the Dhaka Art Summit challenged itself by producing a four day exhibition of art from varying disciplines across most of South Asia. It was a moment of intense pride to witness Pakistani artists in full force throughout the summit – perhaps the greatest part of all.

The Missing One

To begin with, Nada Raza, assistant curator of the South Asian Department at the Tate Modern, mounted an exhibition inspired by the written work of Jagadish Chandra Bose, particularly “The Story of the Missing One” which the exhibition’s title ‘The Missing One’ paid homage to. The story was the first instance of science fiction in Bangla, which was written in 1896, and spoke of a cyclone that terrorized the area by depositing oil into water and was eventually brought to its demise by the former.
'The Missing One' was inspired by Bangladesh's first science fiction story, Jagadish Chandra Bose's 'The Story of the Missing One' - Photos courtesy Dhaka Art Summit's Facebook page‘The Missing One’ was inspired by Bangladesh’s first science fiction story, Jagadish Chandra Bose’s ‘The Story of the Missing One’ – Photos courtesy Dhaka Art Summit’s Facebook page
The show revolved around the work of Gaganendranth Tagore’s “Resurrection,” executed in 1922. The exhibition included artists David Alesworth, Fahd Burki, Ali Kazim, Ifthikhar and Elizabeth Dadi, Mehreen Murtaza Zoya Siddiqui and several others. To see the variety of artists included, from the young BNU graduate, Zoya Siddqui to recent the Jameel Prize nominee David Alesworth, and exhibited on such a large global platform was remarkably refreshing. Visitors including Frances Morris, Director of the Tate Modern, regarded the exhibition in high esteem.

Mining Warm Data

Diana Campbell Betancourt, who has been with the Summit since its inception and plays the key role as Artistic Director and Chief Curator, created an exhibition entitled, ‘Mining Warm Data’. The group show examined how one is viewed through lenses of different methodologies of science, social economics and art.

Black Sites I: The Seen Unseen, 2015-16 - Installation view. Works by artist Mariam Ghani and Chitra Ganesh. - Photo courtesy Dhaka Art Summit's Facebook pageBlack Sites I: The Seen Unseen, 2015-16 – Installation view. Works by artist Mariam Ghani and Chitra Ganesh. – Photo courtesy Dhaka Art Summit’s Facebook page
The work of Mariam Ghani, an artist and writer, became the focal point of the exhibition. She writes, “A warm body is a portrait, not a profile; when a warm data body is erased, the real body remains intact. Warm data is easiest to define in opposition to what it is not; warm data is the opposite of cold, hard facts. Warm data is subjective; it cannot be proved or disapproved, and it can never be held against you in a court of law. Warm data is specific and personal, never abstract…”

Huma Mulji’s work, Lost and Found played a critical role in the show as well, with the examination of the body and how it is perceived, especially in these turbulent times of violence in Pakistan, where citizens reminisce over the past and try to predict the future and what it may hold for the country. While to one audience, the work seem somewhat grotesque; to others it may be fresh point of view towards other aspects of life and how one sees oneself in the future.
Left: A piece from Huma Mulji's Lost and Found | Right: Dilar Begum Jolly's installation Tazreen Nama, 2013 - Photos courtesy Dhaka Art Summit's Facebook pageLeft: A piece from Huma Mulji’s Lost and Found | Right: Dilar Begum Jolly’s installation Tazreen Nama, 2013 – Photos courtesy Dhaka Art Summit’s Facebook page
The other work, which stood out in the exhibition, was by Dilar Begum Jolly, another Bangla artist. Begum Jolly examined the scrutiny against women in the country and how the garment industry takes gross advantage of these women. These women risk their lives in creating clothes for the elite and western market, calling into question at what cost and purpose, the artist skeptical over its benefits for those who struggle to provide for their family.


‘Rewind’, was another strong suit for the Pakistani presence in Dhaka. The retrospective took works from all around the world of artists using abstraction in the 1980s in South Asia, which featured Anwar Jalal Shemza and Zahoor ul Akhlaq.
Installation view of works by artist Zahoor Ul Akhlaq - Photo courtesy Dhaka Art Summit's Facebook pageInstallation view of works by artist Zahoor Ul Akhlaq – Photo courtesy Dhaka Art Summit’s Facebook page
The exhibition included two works of Akhlaq’s, which were part of the Bangladeshi Embassy, never before being seen in the public eye. The concept of abstraction has only been a minor factor in the South Asian master’s, where most marketed artists have been associated with the figurative work. These artists were using their surrounding environment while going against the grain to create their body of work to develop a larger dialogue. Many artists today, such as Shezad Dawood and Rashid Rana, credit artists such as Shemza and Akhlaq as inspiration for their own contemporary works.

Solo projects

The solo projects, curated by Diana Campbell Betancourt, featured Waqas Khan and Britain-based Pakistani artist Haroon Mirza.

Mirza’s work, The National Apavilion of Then and Now was first exhibited in the 54th Venice Biennale with great acclaim, resulting in his bestowal of the Silver Lion award as the most gifted young artist. Mirza uses the construction and concept of sound and visual perception to shift the audience into reconceptualising the forms they are surrounded by in the physical realm. With a shifting halo of white light, the work provided illumination of the darkness by creating grey pyramid forms, taking over the entirety of the cube-shaped space. The viewer was transported through the buzzing sound and began to focus on the light and form of the entire transcendent work.
Left: Haroon Mirza, The National Pavilion of Then and Now, 2011. Anechoic Chamber, LEDs, Amp, Speakers, Electronic Circuit, 800x700x330 cm approx. Courtesy of the Artist and Lisson Gallery, London | Right: Waqas Khan, The Text in Continuum, 2015. Ink on paper, metal. 239x270 cm. Courtesy of the Artist and Galerie Krinzinger, ViennaLeft: Haroon Mirza, The National Pavilion of Then and Now, 2011. Anechoic Chamber, LEDs, Amp, Speakers, Electronic Circuit, 800x700x330 cm approx. Courtesy of the Artist and Lisson Gallery, London | Right: Waqas Khan, The Text in Continuum, 2015. Ink on paper, metal. 239×270 cm. Courtesy of the Artist and Galerie Krinzinger, Vienna
Khan’s work In the Name of God, was comprised of four large books, each with the intricate detailing. With the absence of space, Khan has created a dialogue which would be interpreted by all viewers. Tactfully, Khan displayed the manuscripts in the same orientation that the Holy Qu’ran is displayed. His work very much reflects his momentary emotion at execution, which could be seen in the flow of the lines and dots created by the artist.From the commencement of the Summit, founders Rajeeb and Nadia Samdani had achieved an impressive display of South Asian art in various media, while bringing the global art market and audiences to Dhaka. To see Pakistani artists exhibited so generously throughout the summit was truly awe inspiring; it can only bring more faith to us back home to know we can achieve such acclaim in South Asia and, soon, our own country.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

'Violence is all around me': Imran Qureshi on his disturbing miniatures

Source: Guardian

'Violence is all around me': Imran Qureshi on his disturbing miniatures

Mughal masters began painting miniatures five centuries ago. Now Imran Qureshi has taken up the same squirrel-hair brush as those before him – but his tiny trees are filled with splashes of blood and violence

Evoking carnage … the roof terrace at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, painted over by Imran Qureshi.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Shahzia Sikander in Huffington Post

Source: Huffington Post

Religion vs. Secularism In Art and How Shahzia Sikander and Jim Shaw Turn Social Alienation Into Spiritual Engagement

12/24/2015 11:59 am ET | Updated Feb 25, 2016

Left: Shahzia Sikander, detail from Hood’s Red Rider #2, 1997, vegetable color, dry pigment, watercolor, tea on hand-prepared wassail paper. A Hindu goddess in the form of Durga or Kali incongruously wearing a burqa required of Afghani women in public. Right: Jim Shaw: Thrift store find depicting painting of Butterfly Jesus.

The voice or vision that has moved a community to make it their governing and identifying expression — their mythos — cannot be suppressed. (Think of the Hindu Mahabarata, the Mayan Popol Vuh, the Buddhist Tipitaka, the Hebrew Torah, the Christian New Testament, the Muslim Quran, the Chinese Tao, the Navajo Diné Bahaneʼ, the Egyptian Book of the Dead.) Even when genocide has nearly wiped out a population, whatever is beautiful about the communal narrative and its attendant iconography will survive to become disseminated and perpetuated somewhere else, at some other time, perhaps again and again. This is the history confronting the secular modernists who find that the tropes of religion will not be retired by a considerable percentage of the population no matter how much they are seemingly supplanted by science, reason, logic and abstract thought. It is a persistence that seculars should never forget, otherwise they will deceive themselves with the belief that the persistence of the religious is a matter of education (or lack of) when it is not. It is a matter of artistic beauty, something that the materialism and empiricism of modernity with all its science cannot sufficiently supply to a large percentage of the human race who crave transcendence.

Shahzia Sikander and Jim Shaw are two of the rare artists who have been assimilated into the contemporary secular art world despite that they betray it by fostering obsessions with the visual signage of religion and religious art. They manage to assimilate because — and to use a science fiction analogy that Shaw might appreciate — they appropriate and re-imagine their art as if their imagery inhabited two different dimensions, with one set of features shining brightly in one dimension and another completely different set of features, perhaps even oppositional to the first, brilliantly on display in a second dimension. More mundanely put, Sikander and Shaw are at the same time speaking two different languages: one to the secular audience literate in the subtle meanings of irony and criticism of the religious, and one to the religious audience literate in the signs and symbols largely lost to the modern secularists for their lack of emersion in the traditions of faith.


Shahzia Sikander, Hood’s Red Rider #2,” 1997, vegetable color, dry pigment, watercolor, tea on hand-prepared wassail paper. A male figure in the center resembling the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahangir as a young man is in the company of two multiple-armed Hindu goddesses in the form of Durga or Kali, one flying and armed with deadly weapons while wearing a burqa required of Afghani women in public. The winged horse, Buraq, from heaven and with a woman’s head, in the Quran flies Muhammad on his mi’rāj to heaven, is also reproduced as small, black emblems, as if a passport stamp approving our passage to the Muslim heaven.