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Aisha Khalid/M. Imran Qureshi at Chawkandi

Author: Shamim Akhter      Publications: Daily news - Week. Mag (p.8)      Dated: 16 Oct 2009

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A delightful exhibition of miniature paintings by Aisha Khalid and Mohammad Imran Qureshi, two young artists from NCA Lahore, opened at Chawkandi Art on 30th September and continued till 10th October.

lt will be very appropriate to call Aisha and Imran as trend-setters in the realm of miniature painting. Historically the term miniature was applied to all types of manuscript illustration. Later on, the term was used to describe small paintings. ln Europe they were painted on ivory or card mounted and could be worn like lockets or cameos. The portrait miniature seems to he a development of two older traditions: the medieval illumination of manuscripts and the Renaissance portrait medal. The earliest detached miniatures appear in France towards the end of the 15th Century, but the real breeding ground was probably the Netherlands and it was perhaps a family of Flemish artists who established in the art in England. In India the miniature painting flourished in the courts of Rajas, Maharajas and Mughal Emperors. Even the decline of the Hindu and Muslim rulers in India could not affect the popularity of the art because the British Ruler encouraged the artists. Artists from Britain also came to the Sub-continent and there was an interaction between the two influencing each other in the subject. During the Freedom Movement, fine arts met a set-back as the patrons of arts were in a state of quandary. When vacancies for miniature painting teachers were advertised by Mayo School of Arts in Lahore (now National College of Arts, Lahore), such a noted artist as Haji Sharif came from India for the interview. He was appointed as miniature painting teacher. No wonder that it is NCA who produced the best of miniature painters not only in the past but even today. In Pakistan no other art school or college has a miniature painting department except NCA. Shahid Zaki and Noori, two self-taught miniature artists from Karachi, do their work in the strict traditional style and form. Till today they have not departed from painting a prince with a rose in hand. A group of miniature painting students from NCA remaining attached to the traditional lines has revolutionised the theme. Works of Aisha and Imran speak for this pleasant change. Especially Aishas work is very pleasant and more in line with the traditional miniature. By painting curtains, burqas, women, moon in gold and watching eyes through curtains, Aisha has, unknowingly worked on themes related to todays debatable place for women in society. There is delight in pattern and symbol, with fresh meanings. She has used her palette like a jeweller. Whatever she has painted, appeals to the aesthetics of the viewer.

Undoubtedly, she has made her mark in the history of miniature in Pakistan. She is a graduate in miniature painting from NCA and obtained her degree in 1997. Presently, she is painting miniature as a full-time artist. In the past she taught miniature painting at NCA and Al-Khair University, Lahore.

Imran`s work is very experiment but experiments have to pass the tests of time. He is not hesitant to apply collage in his miniature. And when I use the term miniature for his paintings. I sincerely feel that there should be a new term for his paintings. He wants to use his drawing to say what he sees and feels. One can identify political and scientific issues in his paintings. Some of his paintings show the influence of his teacher on his work shared by Naeem, an artist from Lahore, and an ex-student of NCA Imran obtained his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from NCA in 1993. He was been teaching miniature painting since 1994 at NCA. Aisha has been his student and happens to be his wife also.

An exhibition of Naqsh paintings by Askari Mian Irani opens on 22nd October 99 and will remain mounted for a fortnight. An artist of inks, gold and silver, Askari loves to fill every grain of his paper with geometrical forms and figures of historical princes and princesses.

He links his ancestral lineage with Hazrat Ali (R.A.) and his ancestral professions vary from king-making to soldiering and Hikmat and poetry. When the family moved to Pakistan from Saharanpur after the partition, parents wanted Askari to become an engineer, a career towards which he had no inclination. He recalls, “I ran away from home and lived on the footpaths of Bandar Road in Karachi. I returned home after an absence of three days because we were a strongly knit family. At home religion, literature and tradition prevailed. This triangle became the base for my development. I played at school with other boys. Apart from this the only entertainment in life was films. I was also fascinated by the films. If I could not enter a picture house every day, at least I could watch artists paint cinema hoarding. Royal Park, a place very close to our house, was the centre for this job. The over life size film posters encouraged me to learn drawing. I started copying the board-painters method. My early sketches were portraits of Dilip Kumar, Madhubala and Nargis. My love for drawing finally led me to the doors of National College of Arts in Lahore.” Askari Mian graduated from NCA with commercial design as a major subject in 1967.

Job hunt brought Askari back to Karachi. He worked from nine to five in a design agency and during rest of the hours painted seriously. Bashir Mirza, who owned an art gallery at that time, was a source of encouragement for him. His early works showed a strong influence of Shakir Ali. For the next ten years he kept experimenting with various styles and media until eventually he discovered his identity and individuality. His canvas became a host for Mughal miniature type princes and princesses, horses, eagles and peacocks and his eight pointed  geometrical pattens the ones one still finds on the titled floors of old residences of Parsis in Parsi Colony and above all, the Arabic script commonly known as calligraphy. He introduced arches and doors. And of course his unique colours appropriate for royal decorations. There is not a grain left on his canvas without colour and form. In fact, his one canvas can easily be divided into two to three miniature paintings.

For his expression of the self Askari Mian Irani says, “As a Muslim I believe that the word of God illuminates our lives. The impact of the divine word on the soul of a Muslim, practising or otherwise, reconnects him to the value system of which he is a product. Painting Naqsh, the Islamic tradition of numerology, felt close to home. My major themes remained incorporating design elements like the folds of a Ta viz (amulet), arches from Mughal architecture, historical figures from miniature paintings, which signify Islamic spirituality. The technique of painting I have evolved is such that the texture it creates on the surface of canvas enhances the age effect. The apparently damaged surface creates visual retrogression, validating the presence and revival of these antique design elements in a contemporary time frame.” Askaris first solo exhibition was held in August 1969 at Karachi Art Council. Since then he has held 19 solo shows in Pakistan and participated in 15 group shows at home and abroad.