A Dialogue With Tradition

AAN Collection

Discover more about the miniature technique in Pakistan.

The miniature movement
The miniature technique was revitalised in the 1980s by the National College of Arts (NCA) in Lahore, Pakistan. The National College of Arts is the first institution in the world to offer a Bachelor’s degree in miniature painting. The original curriculum focused on the revival of the traditional form of the Mughal, Deccani, Pahari, Rajput and Indo-Persian schools and the students were taught the techniques of this tradition in the same rigorous manner as had originally been imparted centuries ago. They would painstakingly copy miniature paintings such as landscapes, battles & hunting scenes, architectural studies and portraits of the royalty and the nobility. 

In the 1990s, students initiated their own artistic idiom using this traditional medium by not only disrupting the subjects but subverting the medium as well. To cite on example, earlier paintings were produced inside a small six by eight inch border or ‘jadwal’ as it is referred to and painting were to be confined within this space.

These artists started producing larger works, they began puncturing the surface of the wasli (the hand prepared paper), the started stacking the wasli, creating sculptural forms with the medium and then went on to create video installations, in-situ installations, using needles, layers of paper, creating vitrines and even using performance as an extension of their practice.

In terms of subject matter, there was nothing that that could not be discussed, provoked, disrupted or experimented with.

They commented on the social, political and cultural issues, which were relevant to them and to the world as a whole. The revival of this painstaking skill with a contemporary theme is what makes it the most exhilarating stream of Pakistani Art.

Shahzia Sikander and her pioneering thesis at the National College of Arts iswhat paved the way to those who followed in her wake. Imran Qureshi as a professor at the National College of Arts and his practice has had tremendous influence on those who followed. Aisha Khalid and Khadim Ali are two other artists who are also creating a tremendous legacy.

Amongst them they have shown at the Documenta, The Venice Biennale, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, MOMA, The Sharjah Biennial, MCA Sydney, The British Museum, Mori Art Museum, Mohatta Palace Museum, Karachi, Asia Society Hong Kong, Victoria and Albert Museum and the Guggenheim Museums.

Muhammad Zeeshan, Talha Rathore Nusra Latif Qureshi, Attiya Shaukat, Aisha Abid Hussain, Noor Ali Chagani and Rehana Mangi are also practitioners of this art form who are continuing to break ground with their practices.

We at the AAN Collection are honoured to be the custodians of this art practice and works featured in this particular exhibition have been widely exhibited and published.

Credits: Story

Amna Naqvi
Director & Co-Founder. AAN COLLECTION

The title of the text has been borrowed from a contemporary miniature painting titled ‘Dialogue with Tradition’ by the artist Muhammad Zeeshan.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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