KARACHI: How many flags can you paint on a sewing needle? How many alphabets can be written on a grain of rice? These questions might sound like the beginning of a bad joke but it is a legitimate query for the masters of micro-art, Waseem Rahim and Mirza Adeel.
Rahim, 36, a resident of Karachi, is one of the few people in the world who practice micro-art – the art of painting and writing on tiny objects. After completing his studies in textile design in 1996, Rahim initially took up micro-art as a hobby. At the time, he could only manage to inscribe calligraphy on a grain.
Over the years, he has emerged as a champion in micro-art and is now capable of inscribing the flags of 55 countries on a single sewing needle with watercolors with the naked eye.
Rahim specialises in minuscule paintings and shades so tiny that one needs a microscope to be able to distinguish the images. The amazing thing is that Rahim paints them with his bare eye. His secret: a single-hair of a brush, water colours and a whole lot of patience. “Water colours are really tough to paint with on a large canvas. The challenge is a whole lot greater on tiny objects that cannot absorb water colours such as a sewing needle or beard hair,” he tells The Express Tribune.
Though there are a number of popular artists in the field of miniature art, Rahim’s unique oeuvre are what set him apart from others. His microscopic artwork is inspired by Venkatesh, an Indian artist who writes alphabets on a grain of rice using ink. In his miniature masterpieces, Rahim not only matched Venkatesh’s abilities, he superseded them – by painting landscapes on tiny objects, such as grains of rice, poppy seeds, paper pins, beard hair and nuts.
A tribute to Islamic art is a constant feature in Rahim’s work. Paintings of the smallest national flags, landscapes and other images are some of the examples of his work. The man has reached the zenith of his career in a very short time. And for those who aspire to venture into the field, he has some valuable advice. “The most important thing is to stay calm,” he explains. “Micro-art helps boost your confidence and teaches you to be patient. It makes you successful in other ventures in your life and also helps you become a better human being.”
Another miniature artist, Mirza Adeel, who surprisingly has no artistic background, started a similar practice around a year ago. He was inspired by a miniature artist in Murree. Adeel can now write 52 alphabets on a grain of rice. Other than that, he also paints names and verses from the Holy Quran on to a grain.
Adeel can expertly inscribe names on split chickpeas and spaghetti but most of his work is done on grains of rice. The grains are then preserved in a small bottle containing a preservatives, which conserves the grain’s originality.
Adeel uses dyes to paint with a special 0.1mm pen that he has made himself and his formula makes the grain last longer. “The artist in Murree used glycerin and wrote with ink. We use dyes and chemicals to preserve the grain in a pendant that one can wear,” says Adeel.
Adeel started his practice with a small stall a year ago. He now has a team of three and is quite popular with an ever-increasing clientele. “I started off with a small stall and received feedback that was beyond my expectations. As the number of orders rose, I invited my friends, Zaheeruddin and Shahzeb Saqib, to help me out,” he says.
Adeel has exhibited his craft at various venues in the city as well as in universities and colleges. “Students are big fans of our work and we now have an average of five or six customers every day. We take orders online through our official page, AYZ Pendants, as well as on call and deliver the product to the customer,” said Saqib. Each pendant costs Rs250.
Rahim started off with this form of art after completing his textile design studies in mid-1996. The first exhibition of his works was held at the Arts Council in Karachi. He has displayed his talent in more than 10 exhibitions worldwide since.
In 1997, Rahim went to Dubai to display his work at the Dubai Shopping Festival 1997, where the work was greatly appreciated by a Turkish artist, Hasan Kale, besides many international artists. “I showed Kale my work and asked him if it was the same as his. He replied that my work was vastly different and commendable.”
Former president of Pakistan General (retd) Pervez Musharraf presented his unique artwork as a souvenir to the heads of 45 countries at the IDEAS 2000, international defence exhibition and seminar. His work was lauded by foreign delegates and visitors alike.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 3rd, 2014.