A Jewel in Miniature

Author: Shamim Akhter | Publication: Daily News- Weekend (p.3) | Dated: 24 Sep 2005

An exhibition of miniature paintings by Waseem Ahmed opened at Clifton Art Gallery on September 15. The show will continue until September 27.

Waseem’s miniatures are a combination of his skills as a technician of miniature and imagination nurtured by the freedom he was provided by mentor Bashir Ahmed at NCA, Lahore. A little less than a year ago he was introduced to the Karachi audience in a solo show at Chawkandi Art in October 2004. His miniature paintings were surprising for his dexterity to use hair thin brush neatly and thoughtfully. He combined the past and the present in an amusing, yet subtle manner on his vaslis exploiting Krishna Radha’s analogy to express his ideas.

At Clifton Art Gallery Waseem’s image are linked with his last year’s exhibition. With the skill of a miniature painter he works details on his vasli like a jeweller. His work can be more enjoyed and admired if seen with the help of a magnifying glass.  Each pearl of Krishna’s crown and necklace and each strand of Radha’s hair stand out clean and obvious. Through the magnifier one sees the intricate and minute details of the jewellery and the glow of pearls and diamonds. The thinness of scarves and see- through dresses can best be judged the same way. There is no flaw in the craftsmanship. He plays wonders with his skills when he paints a curtain or white dress of Radha. On one of his vaslis Krishna is hiding behind a curtain. His presence is felt through a peeping eye and a bit of his crown and feet below sneaking out through the curtain. Only Waseem could think of such a situation and exploit it in a comical painterly manner He beautifies spaces with florets here and there.

Waseem’s Radha and Krishna are referential on many accounts. They bring face to face our past values and current transitions in society. They also refer to a woman’s adaptability and a man’s resistance to change. They also refer to our past values and present rush of western culture through electronic media. Male mentality is shown through Krishna’s traditional appearance, which at times changes to the western mode to please Radha. The beauty of Waseem`s work is that even when the concept is taken away his painterly skills rule over the board. His landscape is remarkable, again working on the theme of past and present in the form of night and day. Every night is followed by a day and day is a hope, which Waseem indicates by painting saplings right at the foot of vasli.

Fortunately Waseem has not drifted away from his miniature painting into other fields of interests. It is the fourth time that he is showing his miniature in Karachi, now as a solo artist. Waseem is among the very few budding miniature painters who are pursuing their subject with patience and persistence. Usually female artists have the patience and fortitude required for miniature painting. Not surprisingly the number of male students taking miniature as major subject is dropping as compared to female artists. Waseem was a lone male in a class with eleven female students.

Waseem’s paintings are a satirical comment on our society and current affairs. He also ridicules the past glory and depicts situations that have evolved with the passage of time in the present day society. He works on the parallels of past and present. He brings forth the changes that the concept of a woman has undergone over the years. He paints Radha in tight trousers. He top leaning on a traditional pillow shooting at Krishna with a rifle, whereas Krishna’s thinking has not changed since Adam’s landing on earth from havens. As we saw at Chawkandi in 2001 and then at Clifton Art Gallery in 2003, so do we see in his current show at Clifton Art Gallery that his forte remains Radha and Krishna? Radha has dissociated herself from her culture and is in modern attire whereas Krishna is in his old self. To win her heart Krishna adopts various guises but Radha has no time for him. Waseem says that his paintings mirror present day Pakistani society that has moved away from its cultural nexus and is in a state of transition becoming a mixture of east and west.

Hyderabad-born Waseem Ahmed qualified as a miniature painter from National College of Arts, Lahore, in 2000. His thesis work was displayed at his Alma Mater as a solo artist in 2000. He participated in a two-person show at Art Shart Gallery, Lahore in 2001 and Victoria Albert Museum, London in 2002. Earlier, he took part in group exhibitions at France, Katmandu, Rishiki Art Gallery, Mumbai, and I.I.C. Art Gallery, Delhi, India 2001 and Athens and Worsa in Greece 2001. Canvas and Chawkandi at Karachi, Sim Sim Art Gallery, and Ejaz Galleries, Lahore; Rohtas Art gallery, Islamabad and Hyderabad Arts Council and Sindh Education Trust, Hyderabad have been displaying his works in group shows over the past one decade. Besides painting miniature, presently Waseem is teaching miniature at Hunarkada Art Institute, Lahore.

Before joining National College of Art, Lahore, Waseem was a drawing teacher at Somi Centre, Hyderabad 1996-97. Earlier he had served as textile designer in Fateh Textile Mill Hyderabad for six month 1995. He took to painting when he was in seventh class. Under the circumstances, when he joined NCA, he calculated that he already knew how to paint and draw. He decided to take up something where he could fully exploit his capacity of hard work.

He found that in miniature.