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Exhibition of Contemporary Art from Pakistan to Open at Pacific Asia Museum
Hamra Abbas, Battle Scenes, 2006. Courtesy of the artist and ASAL Collection.

PASADENA, CA.- Exploring the transformation of historical miniature painting from the Mughal courts of South Asia into a stunning contemporary art form by current Pakistani artists, Pacific Asia Museum will present a new exhibition, Beyond the Page: The Miniature as Attitude in Contemporary Art from Pakistan, focusing on the contemporary miniature movement in Pakistan. The exhibition will be on view from February 18 until June 27, 2010, and features fifty works by thirteen artists. The exhibition is guest curated by Hammad Nasar with Anna Sloan and Bridget Bray, and organized by Green Cardamom and Pacific Asia Museum.

The contemporary miniature movement builds on the centuries-old tradition of miniature painting in South Asia and innovates through tradition, instead of being limited by it. The artists featured in Beyond the Page take different approaches to this innovation, whether through novel treatments of classic subject matter or technique, playing with ideas of scale, or utilizing digital and other forms of media instead of painting. Much of this new movement centers around the National College of Arts (NCA) in Lahore, Pakistan. The Miniature Department at the NCA–while in existence since before the exit of the British and the Partition of India and Pakistan in 1947–experienced a renaissance over the last thirty years under the leadership of Professors Zahoor ul Akhlaq, Bashir Ahmed and Salima Hashmi; which has been carried on by the next generation of influential art teachers including Imran Qureshi and Rashid Rana.

Seven of the artists included in the exhibition (Noor Ali Chagani, Aisha Khalid, Rehana Mangi, Hasnat Mehmood, Imran Qureshi, Nusra Latif Qureshi, and Muhammad Zeeshan) received their training through this program and use it to help them navigate through and combine elements that are often set up as binary choices: modern or traditional, local or international, content or form, and aesthetically seductive or conceptually rigorous. While the other six (Hamra Abbas, Zahoor ul Akhlaq [who taught at NCA but was not a student there], Faiza Butt, Ali Kazim, Rashid Rana, and Anwar Shemza) did not formally ‘major’ in miniature painting, they continue the exploration of this form and its potential.

“This exhibition provides a fresh perspective on contemporary art in Pakistan while continuing the Museum’s strong tradition of connecting past and present through the arts. The exhibition presents a diverse picture of contemporary culture in Pakistan and the global community where Pakistani artists live and work, whether that be in Lahore, San Francisco or Berlin,” said Pacific Asia Museum Executive Director Joan Marshall.

Guest curator Hammad Nasar sees the exhibition as an ongoing exploration of the significance of miniature painting for contemporary art: “We all know the debt artists like Rembrandt, Matisse, Paul Klee and Howard Hodgkin owe the conventions and techniques of miniature painting; its use of color, space, composition and portraiture. But the creative energy that continues to flow from this centuries old practice at a time where contemporary art has moved away from the painted surface is a cause for wonder. A new generation of artists from Pakistan is using not just miniature’s characteristic features, but its very attitude–a rigor of application and an intimacy of encounter–to create a way of working across a multiplicity of media, from installation to video, that suggests an ‘ism’ for the twenty-first century. One whose influence is sure to grow.“

Media coverage in the U.S. concerning Pakistan focuses almost exclusively on military and geopolitical issues. The dynamic and burgeoning contemporary arts scene in cities such as Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad is routinely overshadowed by such attentions. Ayesha Kamran, President of Pacific Asia Museum’s Pakistan Arts Council, sees the exhibition as part of a long-standing tradition of featuring art from Pakistan at the Museum: “After bringing several diverse Pakistani exhibitions to Pacific Asia Museum, we once again hope to showcase a different side of Pakistan with this exhibition Beyond the Page, a modern, youthful sometimes avant-garde display of Pakistani art. We are proud to be able to play a small part in building an understanding between our American and Pakistani heritage.”

Pacific Asia Museum | Contemporary Art | Beyond the Page |

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