Aisha Khalid & Imran Qureshi  


Radical in Different Ways
Shamim Akhter

(Miniature painters, Aisha Khalid and Imran Qureshi exhibited their recent output at Chawkandi Art.)

On June 5, 1958, Yves Klein performed his first “Living Brush” painting in Paris. In this performance a nude model applied blue paint to her body and then pressed the paint on to the canvas spread on the floor, under the direction of the artist. This exercise was to reject the brush. In recent times, when Imran Qureshi dipped his body in red paint and rolled it on canvas, it was not the rejection of the brush; it was a quick and emotional reaction to the gruesome killing of two brothers by the mob in Sialkot which everybody saw on TV screen repeatedly. He could not sleep for nights. He locked himself in his studio and started painting out of frenzy what we saw on the walls of the gallery. When he was working frantically, there was no thought of putting it up for a show. It was an intense urge to paint. But when the series completed, his wife, Aisha Khalid pressed him to exhibit it. They thought that it was important to show this work in Pakistan before sending it to some international venue.


Imran Qureshi

Qureshi titled his current body of work on display “All are the colours of my heart.” For him this direct physical involvement was the most important development in the formal making of these works. Splashed with red paint and over imposed with the prints of his hands and body, his current canvases show a new energy coming out from this acclaimed miniature painter. He is already known for his socio-political comments on vasli whereon he delicately produced missile like forms, scissors cutting patterns of clothing from old books to fit into current mindsets.

After his graduation from NCA, Lahore in 1993, Qureshi’s dynamism as a painter has taken many shapes. The journey that started with missiles and scissors blossomed in May 2010. His Artist’s Books “Side by Side,” was commissioned and published by London based curator Sharmini Pereira’s non-profit organization Raking Leaves. It was launched at Free Words London and later the Rohtas 2 Art Gallery Lahore as well as Koel Karachi. The first book called, “The True Path” consisted of a concertina format that unfolds the pages of a painted landscape to a full 25 feet length. The second book titled, “Moderate Enlightenment” is a collection of 20 figurative miniatures. These portray religious persons involved in every day routine. These are ../images of ordinary people whose appearance can be misread by western audience not familiar with our culture. After that he had a solo at Pao Gallery at Hong Kong Art Centre and a show with his wife Aisha at Corvi Mora Gallery. His group participations include Beyond the Page at Pacific Asia Museum, Art Dubai 10 and Mazar Bazaar: Deign and Visual Culture in Pakistan at the NCA Gallery, Lahore where he continued to explore socio-political issues with a rational moderate stance.
Aisha Khalid

Translating her current large scale paintings at Chawkandi, Aisha Khalid says that two of these are inspired by Allama Iqbal’s Shikwa and Jawab-e Shakwa; rest of the four run under one title- Pattern to Follow. Like her works in the past, presently also she has focused on Islamic geometric patterns which she processes in multiple designs of her own with contemporary reference. She wants to draw the conclusion in an abstract and symbolic way. For her line is the integral part of the design; but it is the solid space of these Islamic patterns that are intriguing. She finds a world in it to be explored. Khalid says, “The universe is based on mathematics and geometry. This is an inspirational concept for me. I try to correlate my work to this notion.”   

 She has been addressing multiple issues with repeated geometric patterns throughout her career as a miniature painter. The inspiration came from the tiled floor of her house where she had spent her childhood. She started making squares and divided them with layers of colours to create patterns. These geometric designs have become her signature now.

Earlier at Canvas Khalid painted curtains, burqas, women and lotus using repeated motifs. Her burqa-clad woman was shown emerging from lotus. Her skills as an artist dominated her vasli over her theme related to the debatable place of women in society. There was delightful beauty in her pattern and symbol with fresh meaning. She weaved chequered designs that one usually saw on the tiled floors of colonial houses. The repetition of design executed on a small scale was attractive. At that show she had not severed her relationship completely with the traditional miniature and yet introduced new meaning through her forms to the art.

Aisha’s 12 displays at Canvas in January 2003 were off the beat. Instead of radicalizing, she ridiculed miniature. The show included Aisha’s conversation through a video where her hands were shown embroidering a rose and a French woman’s hand was shown undoing what Aisha had done. Earlier she had exhibited embroidered roses to convey her idea at Canvas. Her twelve displays were an expression of her two years stay in Amsterdam, Holland and performance of Umra on way to Holland. She was awarded Residency for work at Rijksakademie, Amsterdam, Netherlands for a period of 12 months, January to December 2001. (It turned out to be for two years and ended in December 2002).

At Canvas, out of the 12 works by Aisha, her passing art was interesting. It centered on her visuals about Mecca. Titled as ‘Visible/ Invisible 1’, her centerpiece was accompanied by two black hangings with golden embroidered motifs that she had cut from her mother’s wedding dresses. The centre board pictured pilgrims going round the Ka`aba.  The second work of the series also consisted of three pieces. It was visible to the ones who believed and invisible to those who did not. Her theme definitely dominated her painterly skills. Rest of the work was her social comment on the condition of women in both the societies- Pakistani and Hollander. Her painting titled ‘Conversation’ with a sapped out tulip on a table against four burqas was enough to say that women were not free from suffering anywhere in the world. The dialogue was about the form of suffering that varied, subject remaining the same.

Aisha obtained her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in miniature painting from National College of Arts, Lahore in 1997. Her early works include truck paintings, enamel transfers and postcards. Others were more covert and engaged the eye with unfamiliar juxtapositions. Aisha`s works are mysterious, half narrated stories, suggesting connections and possible endings. Basically miniature is a two dimensional visual experience; but Aisha`s traditional patterns lend her canvases a third dimension. In fact, she blends three dimensional components into two dimensional designs. Her geometric patterns provide the illusion of depth to the viewer. The artist comments on her canvases, “I am exploring it as a means of personal expression. I strongly believe that there is something spiritual about it. While drawing and painting, I feel as if I am a simple tool in the hands of an unseen Power.” What Aisha feels at the moments of creativity is not a new experience for people who indulge in intellectual endeavours. It is the angelic hand that gets into the hand of the mortal creator.