From video games to miniature art, Amna Hashmi effortlessly creates a fusion of traditional art and high-end graphics in a way that suggests her ambition is boundless.
Born and bred in Islamabad, she preferred to curl up with a book (or comic book) than run around outside and it was perhaps this hobby that influenced her artwork.
A gamer at heart, she hoped to pursue a career in graphic design, an ambition she put aside when she began her education at Lahore’s National College of Art (NCA). Although inclined towards printmaking, friends and teachers encouraged Hashmir to pursue her interest in the fine arts. That was when “miniature occurred”. Fascinated by the fine detail and intricate brushwork required, she read up on its history and discovered a link with anime.
Anime and miniature shares a common ancestor in Persian artists who, together with the Ottomans, learnt the technique together. The Ottomans settled in China and continued their work and it wasn’t long before the Chinese and Japanese began imitating their work.
Influenced by the work of “Hyakki Yaku”, the first book of the “Night Parade of One Hundred Demons” series by artist Toriyami Sekien, Hashmi began to create her own stories. With the Haji Sharif award for excellence from NCA, she began showcasing her work around the world with exhibitions in India, Syria, England and New York.
Looking at her work, it’s hard not to see the interconnectedness of it all. Much like her beloved anime, she has created her own world and populated it with identifiable characters from Luke and Aemon, the hero and heroine and Izulsalmar, a globetrotting warrior. Inspired from epic tales of heroism, her paintings tell a story of their own, most often revolving around one character saving the day.
While some critics may speculate on her influences and shift away from conventional culture and heritage inspirations, she argues that despite her characters not wearing traditional Pakistani dress or her decision “not to highlight societal issues, it doesn’t mean my work isn’t Pakistani.”
A firm believer in the observation of human behavior over generalizing society, she notes “Pakistan as a country has been making the same mistakes many others have made for thousands of years. Maybe I’m not brave enough to highlight them and I prefer to take a jab at it from my own fantasy world.”
With a hodgepodge of characters in their own bright little world, finely created and imagined by a young artist already showing the telltale signs of mastery, her work transcends any one genre.
Artists like Hashmi are few and hard to find in Pakistan and should be nurtured. But if there are more artists experimenting with style, form and imagination, the country’s art scene has only just begun to amaze.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 10th, 2011.