A Dialogue With Tradition

Discover more about the miniature technique in Pakistan.

By AAN Collection

Seraph (2015) by Shahzia SikanderAAN Collection

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. 

Apparatus of Power (2013/2015) by Shahzia SikanderAAN Collection

Untitled by Shahzia SikanderAAN Collection

Parallax I (2012) by Shahzia SikanderAAN Collection

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.

Parallax II (2012) by Shahzia SikanderAAN Collection

Parallax III (2011) by Shahzia SikanderAAN Collection

Parallax IV (2012) by Shahzia SikanderAAN Collection

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.

Mid Night Gardan (2014) by Imran QureshiAAN Collection

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

Threatened (2014) by Imran QureshiAAN Collection

Threatened, Imran Qureshi, 2010, From the collection of: AAN Collection
Show lessRead more
And Will There Be A Spring When The Garden Will Be Unblighted, Imran Qureshi, 2014, From the collection of: AAN Collection
Show lessRead more

They Shimmer Still (2012) by Imran QureshiAAN Collection

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.

Ongoing Conversation (2001) by Aisha KhalidAAN Collection

Ongoing Conversation (2001) by Aisha KhalidAAN Collection

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.

Divided (2007) by Aisha KhalidAAN Collection

Conversation (2001) by Aisha KhalidAAN Collection

When I am Silent (2014) by Aisha KhalidAAN Collection

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.

Transition-Evacuations Series (2015) by Khadim Ali & Sher AliAAN Collection

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.

Transition-Evacuation Series II, (2015) by Khadim Ali & Sher AliAAN Collection

Haunted Lotus (2013) by Khadim AliAAN Collection

Life Forms-I, Gouache on Wasli, (2011) by Talha RathoreAAN Collection

Location-Dislocation II (2011) by Talha RathoreAAN Collection

A Hundred Suns II, Talha Rathore, 2007, From the collection of: AAN Collection
Show lessRead more

Well Directed Series (2007) by Muhammad ZeeshanAAN Collection

Dialogue With Tradition (2007) by Muhammad ZeeshanAAN Collection

Lines of Confrontation, Saira Wasim, 2012, From the collection of: AAN Collection
Show lessRead more
All The Kings Horses, Saira Wasim, 2013, From the collection of: AAN Collection
Show lessRead more
Step By Step - Freefall, Attiya Shaukat, 2008, From the collection of: AAN Collection
Show lessRead more

Never ending Story (2008) by Aisha Abid HussainAAN Collection

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.

I Live in One by One Inch Square II (2010) by Aisha Abid HussainAAN Collection

Untitled, Aisha Abid Hussain, 2007, From the collection of: AAN Collection
Show lessRead more
Untitled, Aisha Abid Hussain, 2007, From the collection of: AAN Collection
Show lessRead more

Untitled by Noor Ali ChaganiAAN Collection

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.
Explore more
Related theme
What is Contemporary Art?
Challenging the notion of art itself – explore the art of our recent past, present and future
View theme
Google apps