Source: Yorkshire Post
PAKISTANI ART to July 25th 2008. Pakistani art has a champion at Bradford University. Curator Alison Darnbrough has brought some of the country’s most important artists to England.
Alison Darnbrough readily admits that she was surprised by what she found in Pakistan’s art world.
Until a couple of years ago, the curator of Bradford University’s Gallery II had little knowledge of the Muslim country’s vast cultural wealth. However, her eyes were opened after she seized an opportunity to travel with Imran Khan, the legendary cricketer-turned-politician and now university vice chancellor, back to his homeland.
“I went there for the opening of Imran Khan’s new college,” says Darnbrough. “Because there is little tourism and people seem somehow scared or nervous about going there, I didn’t know what to expect, but I fell in love with the country.
“Arts life in Pakistan buzzing”
“If you travel around, and particularly if you go to Karachi, you find the arts and the cultural life of the country is buzzing.
“There are whole communities of artists working together – and the press is incredibly supportive of the arts, with dedicated publications covering all of the art which is exploding around the country.”
Art renaissance in Pakistan: First National Art Gallery opens 2007
Darnbrough was in the country just in time to catch the crest of the wave of an undeniable art renaissance happening in Pakistan. In August 2007 Islamabad, the capital, saw a long wait come to an end with the opening of the country’s first National Art Gallery.
Decades of political turbulence was finally overcome with the opening of the four-storey gallery in the heart of the capital city. It was a symbol of the country’s progress and a recognition of the existence of its many artistic communities.
When the gallery first opened, it featured the work of more than 100 Pakistani artists and inspired the latest collection being displayed by Gallery II at Bradford University.
Seven artists show calligraphy and miniatures
Sacred Marks, Sacred Space runs until July 25 2008 and features the work of seven Pakistani artists. Like most of the work chosen to launch the country’s first national museum, the exhibition is made up of calligraphy and miniatures. Darnbrough says: “In the Islamic world, calligraphy had always been both an art and an occupation and the pen of a calligrapher has been referred to as the ambassador of intelligence, the messenger of the thought, interpreter of mind and sometimes referred to as ‘music for the eyes’.
“The skill, control, focus and devotion of the artist gives calligraphy an unusually sacred and meditative feel where both the surface (space) and the image (marks) attain sublimity due to its often spiritual content.”
While calligraphy was praised in the Islamic world, paintings were less so. This is because the religion forbids depictions not only of Allah and Mohammed, but of human figures.
Revival of miniatures in 1980s
Darnbrough says: “While calligraphy was always practiced by artists, miniature on the other hand, which borrowed from many central Asian and Chinese sources, was gradually pushed to the periphery during the British Raj, so much so that it was practiced by only three or four important artists until its revival in the 1980s led primarily by miniature maestro Professor Bashir Ahmed. I met him through Marjorie Hussain, a British journalist who lives in Pakistan. When I saw the paintings he was producing, I knew I wanted to bring it to Bradford.” Ahmed’s work featured in an exhibition at the gallery in December and he has supplied a number of the artists from his college for the latest exhibition Sacred Marks, Sacred Space.
“The links we have built with Pakistan through Imran Khan have been fantastic, and to be able to bring the art work being produced in the country to Bradford, really is quite special,” says Darnbrough. “Before I went to the country, I thought that Islamic art was very traditional and that work being produced in Pakistan probably would not be all that exciting.
Contemporary themes: Japanese anime to child abuse
“The artists we are bringing here have produced some incredibly exciting work. Amna Hashmi is an artist who tells stories of mythical Pakistani heroes, but uses a style which is very inspired by Japanese anime.
“Another artist, Aisha Rahim, has produced paintings using hair, handprints and footprints and her work looks at the incredibly controversial and challenging subject of sexual abuse of children. This work is brave, important and fascinating art.”
Sacred Marks, Sacred Space runs at Gallery II, Bradford University, to July 25 2008. For information on both call 01274 233137.
Related posts (in new window):
- Original article in Yorkshire Post
- More posts on contemporary Pakistani art
- Books, catalogues about contemporary Pakistani art to buy
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