Redefining The Miniature


An extraordinary anthology of miniature art- works by Donia Kaiser collectively titled. The other side, was recently mounted at Chawkandi Gallery, Karachi.

Working with gouache on wasli, the artist first prepared a translucent black background consisting of numerous layers of paint for small intimate scenarios. Her subjects appear as three dimensional figures resembling minute photographs in their detail. The artist was amused at my wonder and explained that although she photographed subjects that interested her, her paintings were all worked by hand.

Exploring the artist`s work with a magnifying glass, each tiny facet appeared perfect in minuscule detail. Facial expressions – at times shadowed by emotion, the creases in clothes, the limbs, fingers and toes of the characters described, defied one`s visual ability. In Kaisers paintings shoes appeared as a symbolic element and one marvelled at the pin prick apertures for laces and the specks of dust on polished leather.

Kaiser explained how each of her paintings two to three months to complete and in the tradition of the old masters, she spends around 12 hours a day at her work. The artist who does not work with any magnifying instrument. Considers she has around 10 years to work in this way.

Several of the subjects painted are familiar to her in their working lives. There is the Papermaker the man who makes the artists wasli, he stands with his hand on the tree linked to paper, with myriad white leaves which, the artist explained, were formed by unpainted areas of the wasli. Often one finds little birds in the artworks – ancient symbols of departed souls – and colourful fish swimming around or resting in a shoe. One silver fish is portrayed holding the dupatta of a young servant girl who is wearing golden sandals streaming with light.

Kaiser`s creatures are linked to the world of nature, her subjects important in their place in the universe. One discovers a seated shoemaker surrounded by handmade shoes, happily smiling and content with his lot; fish swim around him and a beautiful curving purple tree appears to lift branches in homage to the skies.

Included in the collection is the portrait of an elderly farm of the painting sits the man who was the invalids carer, the pain evident on his shadowed face. Infinitely moving is the sensitivity of the artist who, though filled with sorrow, acknowledges the grief of the servant carer.

Kaiser has done her graduation with distinction from the National College of Arts (NCA) in 2011 and bagged the first position. She majored in miniature art and minor subjects included photography, sculpture, calligraphy, painting and printmaking.

Currently a faculty member of Kinnard College, Lahore, fine arts department, Kaiser is fulfilling her ambition to pass her knowledge on. She is an artist of rare calibre who will most surely continue to touch our innermost feelings with her most delicate and true perceptions.