Tactics of invisibility

Khaas Gallery opened a spectacular show by miniaturist Waseem Ahmed.

Momina Sibtain March 17, 2011


With an estimated auction price of USD 5,000 per piece at Sotheby’s New York, miniaturist Waseem Ahmed is an artist worthy of the approbation hurled his way.

The Santorini-esque Khaas Gallery opened a spectacular show by Ahmed on March 16. Titled tactics of invisibility, it was a traditional miniature exhibit with a twist; while the discipline remains strictly traditional the content however, is anything but that. Specifically, Ahmed uses classical western female nude figures whilst using traditional tea staining technique on ‘wasli’, merging his philosophy of perceptions regarding the west through an eastern lens.

Aasim Akhtar, in his provocative prologue to the collection very rightly said, “if not an artist I see Ahmed as a choreographer or better still a pornographer. He chooses his actors, and model, directs how the bodies should go and say CUT when pleased.  The eroticism of his work is relative and convincing at the same time. As opposed to pornographic images, erotic images make the viewer responsible and aware of his role in the relationship,” continues Akhtar.

The European influence in Ahmed’s work is inherent and this particular collection makes use of famous art pieces such as the “Grand Odalisque” by Ingres, “Nude Maja” (pronounced Maya) by Goya and other celebrated works from the “Sistine chapel” to name a few. The artist puts his own unique style in the recreations and veils his subjects with a thin transparent ‘Burqa’. Even though the logic behind veiling the subjects was to depict the perception of the east and the west thereby merging cultures; however, it almost seems as if the artist is intrinsically apologising for using nudity — which is very common in our culture of art.

“The impressionism I use is twofold. It not only adds as a subject matter in my work but also stretches out the boundaries of my experimentation. I have defied many rules of tradition but I have upheld the boundaries of miniature. I don’t want it to seem as if my work is a small painting but rather it is miniature with a different subject matter.” Ahmed told The Express Tribune.

Delicately unveiling the essence of femininity in his work Ahmed makes his veiling mythical by fanning the tail end of his veil into that of a mermaid. The artist furthermore infuses eastern tradition of tea staining and fine calligraphy to merge the two cultures together. Ahmed’s skill and command over the brush is beyond exemplary. To paint flat on ‘wasli’ with precision is a skill very few posses or can master, however, Ahmed has mastered the technique and the spectacular backgrounds in turquoise, orange, red and black stand out and draw the viewer in. Pasha of Rohtas gallery said it best “I have been admiring Ahmed’s work for a long time; the use of traditional methods juxtaposed with his inherent knowledge regarding western art is fantastic. He uses the rhythm of western influences to enhance his work”. The pieces are a steal at Rs120,000, the show continues till March 31.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 18th, 2011.


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