By Enakshi Sharma
Pakistan generally makes it to the headlines mostly due to wrong reasons nowadays. But behind all the geo-political turmoil, it has a rich tradition of culture, arts and music that generally goes unnoticed. Its actors and musicians have been working in the entertainment industry of neighbouring India for a long time. But what is lesser known is the new breed of contemporary artists who are making waves in the international circuit. More encouragingly, women have been at the forefront of this movement, which is no mean achieving in a highly conservative and patriarchal society. So, here is an attempt to introduce a few shining starts of the Pakistani art scene who are already well known in the western art scene and may achieve further glory in the future. They are not the only ones, but they should help you get acquainted with the scene.
- Rashid Rana: He is one of the best known artists of this generation with works expanding across diverse mediums including abstract canvases, photo mosaics and steel sculptures. A veteran of numerous international exhibitions, he is known for his feminist bent that criticizes the conservative cultural portrayal of the gender.
- Shahzia Sikander: From painting to animation to large scale artistic installations, she has done it all. However, she is known for her exquisite miniature paintings that draw from the rich tradition of miniatures in the subcontinent. She tries to blend opposite themes such as Hindu and Muslim identities or eastern and western sensibilities though her work and often incorporates personal ideas hidden within traditional motifs.
- Imran Qureshi: He is another miniaturist who recently won the Artist of the Year award instituted by Deutsche Bank. He fuses traditional art with contemporary socio-politics and violence inflicted by the same on weaker sections of the population to devastating effect.
- Faiza Khan: She is known as for her paintings as for her social activism. She probes the value of a human life at different levels and seeks to fight oppression and discrimination to break boundaries. By recognizing the hypocrisies of the conservative society, she expresses her protestations through her canvas and hopes to translate that into social movements.
- Huma Mulji: She primarily deals in sculpture and photography and explores themes of displacement. Her obsession with cultural difference made her explore the Middle Eastern landscapes too. Her unique capability is to infuse humour in the themes of cultural conflicts. Through this humour, she also makes scathing social commentary on the increasingly radicalized society of Pakistan and its preoccupation with Arabic influences.
- Saira Wasim: Now living in the United States, she believes in grand narratives though her miniatures. She gleefully subverts the traditional genre to create epic narratives on contemporary politics around the world. Her small but jam packed frames depict action and grandeur but maintains a balances narrative and clarifies the context through the inclusion of identifiable real life personalities.
- Imran Channa: He is a new age visual arts dealing in multiple genres including paintings, sculptures, drawings and digital art. He is known for his extreme attention to detail and experimentations with colour in plain white backgrounds. Some of his best known works have been inspired by historical Mughal miniatures of yore.
- Quddus Mirza: He is not only a veteran artist but a critic and art educator himself who has mentored many younger talents. His works are pictorial investigations into the collective consciousness of the society with use of bright colours and forms. He is also a busy writer who frequently contributes to international art journals discussing the art from Pakistan and relevant issues.
- Soraya Sikander: This versatile painter works on diverse mediums including ink painting, silkscreen paintings, woodblocks and oil canvases. She gained fame through her take on capitalism at the height of recession of 2008-2009. She uses her multi-cultural background as a motivation to promote tolerance and nonviolence through her art that uses natural colours and inspirations.
- Salima Hashmi: She is one of the veterans with blue blood. She inherited her sensibilities from her father, revolutionary poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz. Her left wing politics have found expression through her sculptures, which is a doubly dangerous choice in deeply religious Pakistan where it is construed as idolatry which is blasphemous in Islam.