Culture: Pakistan Artists Draw on Ancient Indian Tradition; Terry Grimley Reviews Contemporary Art from Pakistan and New Graphic Design at Mac Visual Arts
Byline: Terry Grimley
India's new reputation as one of the world's fastest growing economies has prompted predictions that it will soon become an international pacesetter in contemporary art: but what about Pakistan?
The exhibition Beyond the Page, promoted by Asia House in partnership with Manchester City Art Gallery and selected by London-based curator Hammad Nasar, gives an insight into one sensibility which links a particular group of Pakistani artists. However, it would be wrong to think of it as a Pakistani art scene, since some of these artists now live as far afield as London, Berlin and Melbourne.
What unites them is that they have all been trained in, or influenced by, the tradition of Indian miniature painting. This famous style of jewel-like, highly-detailed and colourful painting flourished in Islamic and Hindu courts in Asia between the 14th and 19th centuries and there has been a dramatic revival of interest.
A key figure in this was Zahoor ul Akhlaq (1941-1999), who was professor of art at the National College of Arts in Lahore. Two works by him, from around 1988 and 1991, are included in the exhibition, both untitled and combining tentative elements of the miniaturist style with an abstract approach.
The earlier one includes the outline of a bird in a tree and a decorative gold border. The later one is more completely abstract but the wooden structure on which it is painted (both works are in mixed media on wood) suggests the form of an open book.
There is a similar visual language in four small drawings from 2006 by Muhammed Imran Qureshi which juxtapose representational images - bundles of leaves, a pair of scissors - with an abstract grid of squares. But this grid is itself a reference to the miniaturist tradition because working with such grids was an integral part of its discipline.
There is an apparent reference to the discipline of miniaturist drawing in the title of Hamra Abbas's In this Lesson You Will Learn How Things Reflect in Different Times, a series of meticulous tiny monochrome drawings of an ornamental fountain in different lighting conditions. …