Friday, November 30, 2012

Enriching tradition of Lahore’s National College of Arts

Lahore’s National College of Arts is particularly known for the department of miniature painting, considered one of its kind across the globe. Today, around 20,000 students apply to it each year, with only 150 of them are admitted, and only a dozen making it into the batch for miniature painting.

The institute has produced several Pakistani artists whose art is increasingly receiving international acclaim at biennials and in major exhibitions. This is owing both to the personal experiences they incorporate and to the completely new, innovative forms of expression even while owing allegiance to miniature painting.

The art academy began in the early 1980s so as to revive this art form.  A wide variety of styles like the Moghul School and the Persian schools that thrived in the 16th-17th centuries were included the curriculum. The students grasp the complicated painting technique and also the way of making their paper themselves in the wonderful Wasli method. This remains one of its prime principles.

That the particular class is so much coveted is also owing to the fact that those like Quereshi started to expand facets of miniature painting into a more contemporary form of dynamic artistic expression in the 1990s. While the traits of classical miniature painting were restricted to religious stories usually, the depiction of courtly life and battles, the new practitioners blended it with contemporary forms like new media as well as conceptual thought, using it to comment on the region’s complex social developments. Religion, politics and gender roles are the themes tackled on the Pakistani scene now, also employing the means of fascinating miniature painting.

Along with Imran Qureshi, Shahzia Sikander is another talented graduate of the academy, who has witnessed a major international breakthrough thanks to her works. The New York-based, 1969-bron artist from Pakistan is known to investigate miniature painting’s formal means in her videos, animations, installations and drawings. Sikander’s art seeks to question the Muslim woman’s role and prevailing stereotypical western views, which associate Islam religion solely with their oppression and terrorism. Religion plays a major role both in her personal life and in her art.

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