Pakistan’s female artists are opening windows onto their country and their world.
Pakistani artists are receiving more and more international recognition as their artworks are being exhibited both locally and abroad. Women are at the forefront of this wave, making works which question tradition and provide an insight into life in Pakistan.
Pakistani female artists may have been ignored in the past, notes national newspaper Dawn in an article from April 2013, but the current generation of the country’s women artists are gaining visibility both locally and abroad. Art Radar brings you five female artists who use their work to reassess and reimagine Pakistani society and their place within it.
Karachi-born artist Bani Abidi‘s video and photographic works highlight the similarities, rather than the differences, between India and Pakistan. Abidi’s often lyrical work, notes Art Asia Pacific, combines wit with a sense of tragedy, creating feelings of “humanity and pathos” in the viewer.
Abidi has exhibited in international exhibitions including “Where Three Dreams Cross – 150 Years of Photography from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh“, Whitechapel Art Gallery, London (2008); “Thermocline of Art – New Asian Waves“, ZKM, Karlsruhe, Germany (2007); Singapore Biennale, Singapore (2006); and 3rd Fukuoka Asian Art Triennale, Fukuoka, Japan (2005).
Artist and curator Naiza Khan (1968, Bahawalpur) creates feminist-inspired sculptures which are, claims Jane Perlez in The New York Times, “influenced by the country’s often toxic mix of religion and politics.” These influences can be seen in the works of Khan’s female armour series, inspired by militant Islamic women clad in black burkas and defending a mosque in Islamabad. The artist, who has “had long worked on themes of the female body and attire”, according to Perlez, brings such contemporary events to bear on her sculpture.
Khan received her BFA from the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art, University of Oxford in a unique programme that relied on human dissection in its anatomy courses. Khan has exhibited her paintings, sculptures and printmaking works in galleries and art fairs around the world and in notable exhibitions such as Manifesta 8 and the Cairo Biennale. She co-founded the VASL Artists’ Collective, a hub for contemporary art in Pakistan.
In 2013, she won a Prince Claus Award for her work which, according to Pakistan’s The Tribune newspaper, “represents a deep analysis of the crucial paradoxes of Pakistani society, notably the social position of women in the country.”
Shahzia Sikander creates “hybrid, hypnotic works [which] are inspired by her study of manuscript illuminations in her native Pakistan and elsewhere,” says ARTnews. While her art is based on Indo-Persian miniature painting, Sikander combines this traditional format with the contemporary tools of video, animation and collaboration with other artists.
Sikander has exhibited widely and has had solo exhibitions at the Rohtas Gallery, Islamabad; The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington DC; and Asia Society, New York; Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney; and Parasite, Hong Kong.
She was also featured on the PBS television programme “Art 21”, which described her work as a means “to subvert stereotypes of the East and, particular, the Eastern Pakistani woman.”
Farida Batool is best known for her photograph of a multi-armed girl skipping rope in a run-down part of Lahore, which the Huffington Post describes as showing the artist’s “commitment to the vernacular and to dialogue between the religious and the secular, between the personal and the city.”
Batool received her BFA from the National College of Arts, Lahore where she majored in painting and minored in sculpture. She received her MA in art history and theory from the College of Fine Arts, University of New South Wales, Australia. She lives and works in Lahore, Pakistan.
Qudsia Nisar (b. 1948) creates abstract watercolour paintings based on the tradition of miniature painting. Although working within the recognisable boundaries of miniaturist tradition, points out blog site Colours of Inspiration, Nisar has received international attention for “pushing the boundaries and modernising this medium.”
Nisar received her MFA from Punjab University, Lahore in 1968. According to Colours of Inspiration, she is internationally known for her abstract watercolour paintings based on the tradition of miniature painting.
Discussing her work on the Momart Gallery site, Qudsia Nisar explains the importance of immanent truth to her practice.
I believe art is the “greatest truth” and the most convincing form of commitment. It comes out from purity and imparts the same to the world. “Physical reality” is only a reference to me. It is an outer truth, localised bounded and restricted — whereas the inner truth is “abstract reality” — boundless and wide!
- Four influential women on the Asian art scene – June 2013 – from artists to collectors, women are increasingly calling the shots in Asian art
- Supplementary skins: The female nude in South Korean contemporary art – June 2013 – three female artists use the female form to confound expectations of the artist’s nude
- Drawing attention: Female artists across Asia on International Women’s Day 2013 – March 2013 – a series of gender-focused exhibitions places art by women firmly on the map
- Pakistani artist Bani Abidi on fantasy of heroes, nations, war – picture feast – January 2013 – narrative and politics weave throughout Abidi’s 2013 Kolkata show
- South Asian contemporary art scene: Five artists to watch – January 2011 – Art Radar‘s five South Asian artists to watch
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