Minimalism from Pakistan and its diaspora – in pictures

Yallay Gallery in Hong Kong explores hidden minimalist roots in Pakistani contemporary art. 

A unique group exhibition documents and celebrates minimalist art from Pakistan and its diaspora, unearthing a rare lineage in contemporary Pakistani art.

Ali Kazim, 'Untitled 2 (the storm series)', 2014, pigments on tracing film, 32 x 42 cm. Image courtesy the artist and Grey Noise, Dubai.

Ali Kazim, ‘Untitled 2 (the storm series)’, 2014, pigments on tracing film, 32 x 42 cm. Image courtesy the artist and Grey Noise, Dubai.

In a show entitled “The Importance of Staying Quiet”, Yallay Gallery brings together a selection of ten artists whose works contain distinct traces of Minimalism. Featuring prominent modern and contemporary artists from Pakistan and its diaspora, the exhibition features artworks that span over six decades from the 1950s to the present.

“The Importance of Staying Quiet” runs at Yallay Gallery in Hong Kong until 3 November 2014.

Sara Salman, 'Tessellation of Hexagons and Rhombi 1', 2014, emboss print on paper, edition 1/3. Image courtesy the artist and Grey Noise, Dubai.

Sara Salman, ‘Tessellation of Hexagons and Rhombi 1’, 2014, emboss print on paper, edition 1/3. Image courtesy the artist and Grey Noise, Dubai.

A minimalist perspective

The artists presented include:

  • Anwar Jalal Shemza (1928-1985)
  • Zahoor ul Akhlaq (1941- 1999)
  • Lala Rukh (b. 1948)
  • Rashid Rana (b. 1968)
  • Hamra Abbas (b. 1976)
  • Sara Salman (b. 1978)
  • Ali Kazim (b. 1979)
  • Ayesha Jatoi (b.1979)
  • Fahd Burki (b. 1981)
  • Iqra Tanveer (b. 1983)

Although these are prominent names in the Pakistani art scene, the works on display do not represent the artists’ signature practice or include their most famous pieces. Instead, specific works from each artist’s oeuvre were chosen to demonstrate a hidden lineage of Minimalism.

Iqra Tanveer, 'Eclipse', 2013, inkjet on Hanemühle photo rag, 91.44 x 136.77 cm, edition of 1/3. Image courtesy the artist and Grey Noise, Dubai.

Iqra Tanveer, ‘Eclipse’, 2013, inkjet on Hanemühle photo rag, 91.44 x 136.77 cm, edition of 1/3. Image courtesy the artist and Grey Noise, Dubai.

A sense of cool, calm, quiet anonymity pervades the exhibition: a far cry from the typically boisterous climate of Pakistani contemporary art. Colours are muted and forms pared down to primary structures. The exhibition press release draws attention to

the use of formal and informal elements that distil the image or form down to its basics.

Iqra Tanveer, 'Instant Distance', 2013, inkjet on Hahnemühle photo rag, 110 x 118 cm, edition 1/3. Image courtesy the artist and Grey Noise, Dubai.

Iqra Tanveer, ‘Instant Distance’, 2013, inkjet on Hahnemühle photo rag, 110 x 118 cm, edition 1/3. Image courtesy the artist and Grey Noise, Dubai.

Minimalism: A hidden aesthetic

According to Umer Butt and Saira Ansari, the gallerist and writer/artist duo who organised the exhibition, the presence of Minimalism in Pakistani art is not well documented. The first generation of Pakistani artists were influenced by Western Modernism, but

formal aspects of minimalism never took root in the Pakistani art discourse, even though there are many examples of works being produced in this vein.

Zahoor ul Akhlaq, 'A Study for Sunless Days', 1991, lithograph, 723x543 mm,edition5/10. Image courtesy the estate of Zahoor ul Akhlaq.

Zahoor ul Akhlaq, ‘A Study for Sunless Days’, 1991, lithograph, 723 x 543 mm, edition 5/10. Image courtesy the estate of Zahoor ul Akhlaq.

The exhibition starts off with the work of Anwar Jalal Shemza and Zahoor ul Akhlaq, two artists who were active in the 1950s art scene and influenced by tenets of Modernism.

Rashid Rana, 'A plinth from a gallery in Lahore', 2010-2011, inkjet UVprint on aluminum, 36 x 36 x 100 cm. Image courtesy the artist, Anil Rane, Chemould Prescott Road and ChatterjeeandLal.

Rashid Rana, ‘A plinth from a gallery in Lahore’, 2010-2011, inkjet UV print on aluminum, 36 x 36 x 100 cm. Image courtesy the artist, Anil Rane, Chemould Prescott Road and Chatterjee and Lal.

The show then traces the minimalist aesthetic found in the works of subsequent Pakistani artists over the next five decades, including the leading contemporary artist and teacher Rashid Rana.

Ali Kazim, 'Untitled 6 (the storm series)', 2013, watercolour pigments on paper, 125 x 102 cm. Image courtesy the artist and Grey Noise, Dubai.

Ali Kazim, ‘Untitled 6 (the storm series)’, 2013, watercolour pigments on paper, 125 x 102 cm. Image courtesy the artist and Grey Noise, Dubai.

The gallery claims that the selection of works highlight a parallel aesthetic that has developed in Pakistan over six decades, opposite to the much more well-known and widespread tradition of miniature art and miniature painting.

Rashid Rana, 'Canvas on Canvas II', 2007-2014, inkjet print on canvas, 186 x 285 cm. Image courtesy the artist, Anil Rane, Chemould PrescottRoad and Chatterjee and Lal.

Rashid Rana, ‘Canvas on Canvas II’, 2007-2014, inkjet print on canvas, 186 x 285 cm. Image courtesy the artist, Anil Rane, Chemould Prescott Road and Chatterjee and Lal.

Shifting dialogues in Pakistani art

“The Importance of Staying Quiet” unearths a unique alternative art history that enriches current dialogues in Pakistani art, in particular about conceptual art created from the nation. The exhibition press release also emphasises the

significance and contribution [of the minimalist aesthetic] towards the advancement of critical thought.

Zahoor ul Akhlaq, 'A Study for Sunless Days III', 1991, lithograph, 714 x 545 mm, edition 3/5. Image courtesy the estate of Zahoor ul Akhlaq.

Zahoor ul Akhlaq, ‘A Study for Sunless Days III’, 1991, lithograph, 714 x 545 mm, edition 3/5. Image courtesy the estate of Zahoor ul Akhlaq.

Although the artists presented are not necessarily considered “minimalist”, the minimalist aspects in their oeuvre demonstrate an influence that cannot be ignored. The gallery stresses that the exhibition does not attempt to provide a historical survey, but instead

give[s] a small homage to the peripheral practice of the minimal […] look[ing] at a section of visual vocabulary being produced through a period of shifting ideologies in Pakistani art.

Fahd Burki, 'Saint', 2011, acrylic on paper, 218.44 x 139.7 cm. Image courtesy the artist and Grey Noise, Dubai.

Fahd Burki, ‘Saint’, 2011, acrylic on paper, 218.44 x 139.7 cm. Image courtesy the artist and Grey Noise, Dubai.

About the curators

Neither Umer Butt nor Saira Ansari define themselves as curators. Umer is the director of Grey Noise in Dubai, a gallery that represents international conceptual artists. He has a BFA from the National College of Arts in Lahore (NCA) in Pakistan, and an MFA from the Chelsea College of Art and Design in London.

Ansari is a writer and an artist with an interest in art history and critical commentary. She also attended the NCA in Pakistan, where she received her BFA followed by an MA in Visual Arts.

Michele Chan

501

Related Topics: Pakistani artists, picture feasts, gallery shows, events in Hong Kong

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Minimalism from Pakistan and its diaspora – in pictures — 2 Comments

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