Personal is political: Two miniaturists examine gender and isolation

Published: March 2, 2012
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Curator says one artist’s work is more traditional while the other is contemporary. PHOTO: APP

Curator says one artist’s work is more traditional while the other is contemporary. PHOTO: APP

LAHORE: 

Miniaturists, Feriha Rehman and Sehar Hashmi, both National College of Art (NCA) graduates, exhibited their work at Rohtas 2 in a two-person show, Rituals, which opened on Thursday.

Curator Asad Hayee said he chose both the artists as “we were trying to look at the concepts of miniature painting.” One school works with tradition while the other is contemporary, he said.

“I thought it would be interesting to show Feriha’s work as she is working with a traditional idea of miniature while Sehar is more contemporary,” Hayee said. “There are a few elements in Feriha’s work that are contemporary but Sehar’s work is completely contemporary. She does not use traditional elements like the border, the lotus and the oval.”

Hayee said the other reason the two artists were chosen was the ten years difference in their graduation (Rehman graduated in 2001, while Hashmi graduated last year). “One artist is a fresh graduate while the other has ten year’s of work. I wanted to see a narrative between the two. Does art practice matter? Would their ideas and concepts be similar? These were some of the questions I was hoping this show would help answer.”

Rehman said this was her first show after a two-year break, during which she was in Dubai. “The overarching theme of my work is the obstacles women face in our society. Whatever trauma we face, we have to deal with it through a process which then becomes part of our lives.”

Rehman added that it was very difficult for women in every society not just ours. “Everyone judges women. We have to struggle twice as hard as men. Gender puts us at a disadvantage socially.”

Lahore-born Sehar Hashmi said her work was personal. “My work examines the darker side of our nation.” Hashmi added that her themes were isolation and the fears we share as a nation. “My work is related to surrealism. We are moving towards becoming even more isolated and making boundaries. We are building even higher walls around ourselves,” she said.

The recent graduate said that response to her work had been mixed. “People like their art to be colourful and positive. They ask me, ‘why don’t you make more positive things?’”

“I can’t really see much that is positive in our nation right now,” she said, adding that a ‘certain type of person’ likes her work. Hashmi said, “We cannot ignore the state of our nation. We have to focus on it and examine it in order for there to be change.” “The message in my work is that we are living in troubled times. It is a civil war and this is impacting me.”

The work is priced between Rs25,000 and Rs60,000.

The show continues till March 7.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 2nd, 2012.

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