Miniature madness: Breaking the mould of conventional art

Monday, March 12th, 2012 4:00:16 by



ISLAMABAD: An exhibition at the Satrang Gallery at Serena Hotel is the result of young miniature artists’ attempt to break the mould.

The group show, “Breaking the mould”, features a range of young artists from all over the country. Although miniature art is known to feature Mughal-era figures decked with jewellery and intricate borders, these paintings are different.

The group consists of Sumaira Tazeen, Attiya Shaukat, Shiblee Munir, Amna Hashmi, Nizakat Ali Debar, Noureen Rasheed, Sahyr Sayed, Hifza Khan, Mamoona Riaz and Hifza Sakina Akbar.

The first painting to catch ones eye was Shaukat’s “Structure”, depicting a tall tree trunk, which a figure tried to climb up but came tumbling back down, depicting a very personal story. After suffering a severe back injury due to a fall while hanging up her thesis work, the piece speaks of the turmoil and struggle she faced due to her injury.

Munir’s work is embedded with history and roots, which is not a surprise as he takes his inspiration from his grandfather, miniature art maestro Haji Mohammad Sharif.

His paintings are strong yet subtle. He paints Mughal history, but without all the pomp and show. Instead, his work is more of a sharp jibe at the follies of the Mughals, such as in the piece titled “Our tradition and our traditions”, where a battle scene portrays a sword-wielding Mughal army charging.

Moving on, the Manga characters in a fantasy world by created by Hashmi are another eye catcher. Apart from the painted cartoons, Hashmi’s work also features a delicate pencil on parchment journal, “Latona”, named for the heroine depicted in the pencil-sketched journal.

Since breaking traditional moulds seems to be the theme of all the artists, Sayed’s work puts the icing on the cake, with six contemporary works focusing on household items as her centrepiece.

Her “Washing Machine” features exactly what the name suggests, a painting of a small washing machine with neatly stacked little pieces of cloth on the side. Her installation “Happy home” is the interior of a home carved out of Styrofoam.

The “Transition” series by Rasheed envelops traditional miniature painting with an ironic twist.

As everything on this earth must face transition and development, so does miniature. Perhaps that’s why, in her painting, a girl wears a traditional anghrakha shalwar kameez and khusas, while holding a bottle of Coca Cola with a sphinx cat meowing at her feet; or another girl clad in traditional clothes enjoys a solitary picnic in the wilderness with her laptop.

Each artist has added a different twist to their view on contemporary work, which might not be over the top or ground breaking, but are definitely thought-provoking.

Curator Zahra Khan expressed her views on contemporary miniature art, stating, “Miniatures are an age-old art form, passed down from generation to generation. These artists have chosen to deviate from the traditional themes of miniatures.”

Published in The Express Tribune, March 12th, 2012.



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