Politics in miniature

The art of current affairs; a timeline of recent tragedies that have struck Pakistan.


Saleha Rauf October 19, 2010

LAHORE: An exhibition of miniature paintings about current events by Professor Sheikh Mansoor, a teacher in the Fine Arts Department at the University of Sargodha, is open at Vogue art gallery in the city till the end of this month.

Tanveerul Islam, Punjab’s minister for culture and youth affairs, inaugurated the exhibition of 37 works, titled Mansoor’s Miniatures, at the Vogue art gallery on Friday with artists Saeed Akhtar, Zara David, Bahar Baigam, Amir Suhail and Shahid Sindho in attendance.

The miniatures are mostly about current affairs concerning Pakistan, globally and domestically. “I cannot separate what I see happening around me from my work,” said Mansoor. “You can find everything here from carpet bombing in Waziristan to the Data Darbar tragedy.”

He said an artist who did not care about social problems was being dishonest. “Today only functional art is acceptable. People want to see something practical. Globalisation has changed the concept of art production,” he said.

The exhibition is like a timeline of recent tragedies that have struck Pakistan. One wall starts with a painting titled Good-Bye Shehzadi, a name it shares with a recent biography of Benazir Bhutto. The next one, Bio Matrix, shows a green thumb impression and pistol, leading to Unlovable Soul, a portrait of a person hiding his face with bloodied hands and bullets in the corner.

The next two paintings are about natural and manmade disasters. Data Darbar is about the recent bomb blasts at the iconic Lahore shrine, followed by 8:56 am 8 October, 2005, which is about the earthquake that devastated northern Pakistan five years ago.

The next two paintings are again connected. Prisoner #650 is about Dr Aafia Siddiqui, while Prisoner Paradise evokes Guantanamo Bay with red footprints, security wire and blood.

Some pieces are on issues concerning women. When Hot Wind Blows is about the power men wield in our society and how women fall prey to them. Jelly Fish Made of Water is about the physical weakness of women. Other notable paintings with current affairs themes were Moon Sighting, 1st Instalment, Angry Monsoon, The Reluctant, Operation Cleanup, Sorry Jinnah, Beginning of an End and Horse Trading.

Adam and Eve in the Mughal Garden, The Mask of Thorns, (Love) For Sale, Hope Takes Many Shapes and We are Family showed more of the artist’s personal side.

Much of the work is in mixed media. “I’m not bound by any medium. I use oil, acrylics, pastels, even the coffee on my table,” said Mansoor. “I choose the medium which will have the greatest impact. I’m the only one doing collages in miniature.”

Mansoor is the grandson and a former apprentice of the great Haji Muhammad Sharif, who founded the Mughal Miniature Arts Department at Mayo School of Arts, now the National College of Arts. He is a design graduate but was inspired to pursue miniatures as his preferred medium.

Mansoor’s Miniatures is also the title of a book written by the artist and launched last year. It is about modern miniature paintings, manuscript writing and calligraphy.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 19th, 2010.

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