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Art & Artist

Author: Shamim Akhter      Publications: Daily News- (p.3)      Dated: Not Known

Exhibition Navigation

A group exhibition of miniature paintings opened at Chawkandi on 20th August to run until 28th August 2002.

Six miniature painters, graduates from National College of Arts, Lahore- Sumaira Tazeen, Reema Kaleem Faruki, Saira Wasim, Reeta Saeed, Farrah Mahmood Rana and Waseem Ahmed proved at Chawkandi that small is beautiful. One more thing common about the participating budding artists was that remaining within constrains of miniature painting, they commented on the present day social and political scenario.

Except for Sumaim Tazeen,rest of the artists were products of year 1999- 2000- 2001. Sumaira qualified in 1996. With six years of experience behind her, Sumaira has command over her genre as well as words. “We cannot deny ourselves. Our work as artists is supposed to be a mirror to our souls. And our souls as children of this age carry their own particular baggage.” Says Sumaira Tazeen, a miniature artist who does not believe in repeating the past Sumaira has stepped back to take stock of her present. Her teachers at National College of Arts. Lahore could see a rebel behind a cool and calm face. Her thesis titled “Out of time, out of space, elephant established that they were not wrong. Throughout a merit scholarship holder, Sumaira has worked on the subject of marriage for the current show. It is a continuation of her past work. Her story through her `wasli` underlined the change in values with the passage of time. She proved that miniature is far from small. One of her paintings was presented to Queen Elizabeth II on her visit to Pakistan in 1997.

Two years after her graduation, in 1998 Sumnira addressed questions of social opiates like superstition and fatalism in exquisite forms that bordered on the neem qalam in Saanp Seerhi (Snake and Ladder) and Mehboob aap kay Qadmon mein (Lover at your feet). The control games played by the powerful are created on a format of snakes and ladders with queens and kings posing as the serpents. ln one of her exhibition held in 1998, Sumaira mingled text with illustration and in her Map of Pakistan the fine composition and fluid lines lent her work gentle grace.

Her recent works are a step further from her previous works. She paints social issues with her personal approach. She is painting the theme of marriage and making a record of the colourful ceremonies of marriage through her miniature paintings.

Sumaira executed a series of miniatures based a Shah Abdul Latif Bhitais illustrious poetic work “Noori Jan Tamachi” for the Sindh Governor House. Sumaira says, “Once in a while an exciting challenge comes along and it is enough to keep my creativity aflame. ln the mean time l am teaching and learning simultaneously. Learning takes much more than four years. l was born and brought up in Hyderabad.” Sumaira adds, “I was in class seven when I started dreaming about studying at National College of Art, Lahore. l was good at drawing and had fondness for colours. I saw a TV programme on NCA, Lahore.”   Modestly she says, “Hyderabad is a fairly conservative, laid back town. It surprises you with its traces of colonial and Hindu architecture. But art is an obscure career choice in Pakistan, especially in a conservative city like Hyderabad.”

Sumaira found no counsel to guide her for her future discipline, With her mind set on sculpture, she finally gat admission in NCA, Lahore in 1992. She says, “the foundation course for fine arts in the second year in NCA encompasses all the disciplines of fine art. That is where I found my actual calling. What attracted me most was the pace and ambience it created. I found resonance within myself. I settled for Miniature as major and Sculpture as minor subjects.” Her initial days were consumed in learning the skill of the art. She adds, “The materials and processes of miniature have not changed much since the days of the Mughal Kitah Khana or Royal Atelier.” Sumaira and her colleagues prepared their own materials exactly in the old tradition. She explained, “Miniatures are painted on hand made paper called vasli. Vasli is made by joining old and new sheets of paper with special moth proof glue called lai. This makes the paper thick and card like with an even surface. The paper is then burnished with hard stone, glass or a shell to make it shiny, durable and permeable to ink and other colouring. Recalling her college days. Sumaira said, “We even made our own special brushes from squirrel hair, tying them to a quill and passing them through a bamboo stick for an easy handling. The whole procedure seemed futile initially. We all grumbled at the waste of time and energy on things that were readily available in the market. Why go chasing squirrels in Lawrence Gardens when Windsor & Newton make such a fine set of thin brushes? Now I know the importance of this ritual.”

Sumaira obtained her Bachelors Degree in Fine Arts from NCA, Lahore in 1996. During the same year she received Haji Mohammad Sharif for Miniature Painting Award and Gold Medal for Outstanding student, NCA. Throughout her four years study at the college, she received Merit Scholarship. During 1993- 94 her name was included in Principalls Honours List and she won two gold medals at NCA in the art of puppetry. Earlier, at Hyderabad, Sumaira stood first in art competition throughout intermediate ln 1989- 90 and stood first in art competition in school, 1982.

Sumaira has participated in many exhibitions held at all the major cities of Pakistan. Her works painted over the past six years are in the private collections in Pakistan and abroad. Her work experience includes work for an art gallery as a curator; work as a colour consultant/ textile designer for a local textile mill. She conducted a miniature workshop at Studio Art and worked at Oxford University Press as an illustrator. Presently she is teaching History of Art at Textile Institute of Pakistan and working as a free lance miniature artist in Karachi.

Hyderabad born Waseem Ahmed, a lone student in a class of eleven girls at NCA, qualified as a miniature painter in 2000. His thesis work was displayed at his Alma Mater- National College of Arts Lahore as a solo artist in 2000. He participated in a duo at Art Shart Gallery, Lahore in 2001 and Victoria Albert Museum, London in 2002.

Before joining NCA, he was already participating in group shows at Hyderabad Arts Council and Sindh Education Trust. Waseem learnt the art of painting and drawing while in Hyderabad. He took to painting when he was in seventh class. 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.

Waseems current displays at Chawkandi are a comment on present day society. His subjects are 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.

Farrah Mahmood Rana joined NCA with a mind set on sculpture but when the result came she had done a better job in miniature. She opted for miniature as major and took photography, printmaking, ceramics and computer graphics as minor and qualified in 1999. She has been participating in group shows at Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi since 2000. She has also participated in an exhibition of miniature paintings in Warsa Poland and Athens, Greece in 2001. She has tackled three major fighting factors for mankind in her current miniatures at Chawkandi. She elaborates Zar, Zun and Zameen (woman. land and gold) as a cause of strife amongst human beings right from Adams day up to the present. She paints politics as well. One of her miniatures on display shows a throne with two naked crossed swords with a kinga bust without head on top. Farrah also shows her concern about purity of woman. ln one of her miniatures a female form without any features is shown emerging from a pearl case. Farrah identifies her featureless face with loss of identity and explains that when a woman is covered, she is like a pearl in its case but when she is exposed, she loses her identity.

Reema Kaeem Faruki graduated from NCA in 2000. She was awarded Shield of Excellence in Performance 1999. She achieved Sandat Hasan Manto Prize for Performance, NCA, 2000. She has been participating in group shows at Lahore and Islamabad since 1997. Her displays were included in exhibitions at Athens, Greece and Warsaw, Poland organised by Export Promotion Bureau 2001.

Reema tells her stories through cows and flamingos. She equates women with cows and flaming with young men ready to do anything to migrate to the west. Reema has full command over her vasli. She creates aesthetical images with soft palette and expressive compositions.

Reeta Saeed graduated with honours from NCA in Miniature Painting in 2001. She was awarded merit scholarship in 1999. She experimented with her delicate forms and executed them on cloth and kurtas (kind of loose tops) of small size.

Saira Waseem passed her BFA with distinction from NCA in 1999. She has special skills in watercolour and papermaking. She has been participating in group shows held at Lahore and Islamabad since 2000. Her work was included in Pakistan Textiles and Craft Exhibition at Didriehen Museum, Finland in 2000. She participated in an exhibition of Contemporary Art of Pakistan at Gay Grimm Gallery in New York 2000. She took part in Manoeuvring Miniatures contemporary Art from Pakistan by KHOJ International Artists Workshop in India International Centre, New Delhi in 2001. Same show was displayed at Sakshi Gallery, Mumbai 2001. She was one of the participants at a Miniature show curated by Quddus Mirza at Harris Museum & Art Gallery in Preston, UK 2002.