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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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