Paris June 2011
Base Commune at the Alexis Renard gallery in Paris brings together the graceful artworks of four young graduates of the Lahore National College of Art, whose contemporary creations are rooted in traditional miniature painting.
The exhibition was curated by Mannan Ibrahim Chaudry, the founder of Moulin de l’Est, a Paris-based organization that promotes exchanges between Indo-Pakistani and European artists. The works vary in style, from Isbah Afzal’s delicate watercolor renderings of textiles to the human hair woven into geometric patterns by Rehana Mangi. Reinterpreting the miniaturist tradition through sculpture, Noor Ali Chagani explores the human instinct to enclose themselves in private spaces by building walls out of miniature handmade bricks
Despite the diversity of the works in the show, a distinct aesthetic stemming from the miniaturists’ precision and attention to detail serves as a cohesive thread running through the exhibition. Many of the works consist of ink and watercolors on wasli, a type of paper traditionally used for painting miniatures that was devised in 10th century India. Shades of orange, red, deep pink, and warm brown dominate the artists’ palates.
“It’s not that these colors are traditionally used in miniatures per se,” explained the artist Aisha Abid Hussain, whose works in the show, “Rather, I think the tendency to use warm colors stems from our Asian surroundings where everything is bright. If I lived in Paris, I would probably paint in blue and gray.”
Abid Hussain meticulously transcribes texts taken from her personal diaries in tiny letters to form beautiful abstract forms. Coffee spilled just-so over the wasli adds an organic element to some pieces and exemplifies her enthusiasm for working with various media.
Like all the work on view, Abid Hussain’s is the result of a long thought process and a great deal of patience, but the final product has a spontaneous and even ephemeral feel.