The Pakistani artists that should be on your radar

Safia Sher, Mariam Hanif, Romaissa Khan and Hira Mustafa explore the perception of universal emotions through art.


Afia Sher, Mariam Hanif, Romaissa Khan and Hira Mustafa explore the perception of universal emotions through their art. DESIGN: UMAR WAQAS / PHOTO: PUBLICITY

LAHORE: Mariam Hanif



An artist who impressed everyone with her brilliant art pieces is none other than Mariam Hanif, who has completed her Masters in Visual Arts from the National College of Arts.  Hanif’s biggest source of inspiration is nature — not only visually, but the cycle of nature itself inspires and moves her in many ways. She loves sketching and painting and likes trying new techniques and materials to explore the diverse mediums available to artists. The idea of her work revolves around the apparition visual experience of land, water and sky capes from nature, and how these visual experiences become a part of her memory. With time; they start possessing one’s mind and they create their own language, a language of marks, dots and doodling amalgamated with visuals, emotions and thoughts.

In her recent works, she created images of these visual experiences from memory, with both an objective and subjective approach. As she parted her work into two different experiences, three canvas paintings in yellow light (day) and an installation in black light (night), day/night, being the core part of nature, Hanif said, “I want to make my viewers feel the sublime, celestial beauty in nature and leave with an experience of ecstasy. As it is said by Randy Pausch, ‘experience is what you get when you didn’t get what you wanted, and experience is often the most valuable thing you have to offer’.”

Hanif graduated from NCA in 2010, with a major in print-making and a minor in miniature painting, digital art and manual black and white photography. She recently finished her MA (hons) in Visual Arts in 2013, with calligraphy as her traditional practice. She was also given a grant in association with NYFA for an exhibition and a one month stay in New York, while she was completing her masters. With all of these awards at the initial stages of her career in arts, Mariam has already established herself as one of the most promising young artists from Pakistan.

Safia Sher



One of the young artists who has emerged in the arena of arts is Safia Sher, who completed her undergraduate degree in Fine Arts from the Fatima Jinnah Women’s University, Rawalpindi. Sher’s recent works titled The Universe Within surround the amorphous and ambiguous visuals of her subconscious mind. The recognition of subconscious imagery is an important part in self-discovery. It is quite challenging to work on an idea related to emotions, which do not exist in a physical reality, cannot be measured, and are intangible in nature. It requires her to understand, analyze and formulate a method to work on her visual concepts. Sher, speaking to The Express Tribune, said: “Creating this series of work for my exam project in BFA was both challenging and encouraging.”

The resulting impact created elusive, mysterious and illusionary visuals, which was intrinsic to the idea, her work and process. Sher said, “I tried to make the concepts behind my work correspond with the visuals, through the way I executed my art.” That is why she chose to work with ultraviolet paints and ultraviolet light, which created a mysteriously glowing effect.

She is interested in exploring mediums, such as oil and acrylic, to express not only the diverse subjects surrounding our society and people, but also to articulate different sides of herself through art. She believes that art discovers one’s own self first, and then reflects the discovery of other minds.

Sher’s work is mostly about her own subconscious vocabulary. Being a painter, experimentation has always been important to her. This approach propels her to push the boundaries of conventions of the medium, and allows her to question the traditional approach to the development and perception of artwork. Answering a question regarding her future plans, Sher said, “I took part in two exhibitions, one at Alhamra, Lahore and another at VM Art Gallery, Karachi. In the future, I aim to continue my research with the same concept, to explore further possibilities of development, not only in search of issues which influence my life, but also to find the common relations between humans.” She is presently pursuing her Masters of Visual Arts at NCA. She is surely an emerging heavyweight in the field of Fine Arts, and seems all set to conquer the arena.

Romaissa Khan



Romaissa Khan is inspired by strong emotions and how they are weaved around us, be it sorrow or joy, happiness or loss, love or grief. Khan said, “We have great artists in our history, and many contemporary ones to look at.”

“I don’t discourage obsession when it comes to inspiration, I let it take over me, and bring it out in my own way of individuality/expression.”

She is captivated by the joy and beauty found in non-living objects, which silently tell a whole range of human stories as they are associated with them, and that has emerged in her preferred subject to explore.

Her recent work is a series of ephemeral, highly intricate, black and white drawings, focusing on a living space that once was. Her still objects talk about the space which does not exist in our designed present, but is a remnant of the past, and creates a wistful reality lingering between the existing visible realities. Khan says, “I have tried imitating those visuals where one could only live through a mind’s eye. These objects are metaphors for human appearances.”

Khan holds a Masters in Visual Arts from the National College of Arts.

Hira Mustafa



Hira Mustafa undertook a formal qualification of four years as a painter, which is her main area of interest, but in the interest of being well-informed, has looked into sculptures, ceramics, miniatures and design. This is the reason her work has developed into small, digitally-treated miniature books with beautiful wooden shelves.

Mustafa’s work is a critique of the importance of art and books; showing how important it is to attain an education. Speaking to The Express Tribune, Mustafa said, “I have resized original books to a miniature size which are beautiful and handy, but the main element of reading is missing, showing the importance of books.” She has made her own collection of books mainly related to arts, which includes history of art books to studies of works of different Western artists, showing the influence of the West on us. Her work explores the concept that when something is reduced in size it gets more personalized and its importance is doubled. Mustafa has more than an adequate well of inspiration to draw from at home, for the legendary landscapes artist Ghulam Mustafa is her father.

She did her Bachelors in Fine Arts from NCA in 2010, and completed her Masters in Visual Arts in 2013 from the same institute.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 19th, 2014.

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COMMENTS (1)

aisha aqif | 7 years ago | Reply

Safia sher: this girl is on fire.stopping at nothing aiming for the stars,she is a true workaholic.hw she took simple thoughts and transformed those into magic on.canvas truly makes her an avant garde painter.been lucky to see her display upclose,a literal walk through her "universe" & only one thing comes to mind:dynamite of talent! Keep the wonderful work up

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