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ART FACTS: Between tradition and modernity

Miniature painting is a form of painting that is deeply rooted in many cultures and spans over centuries. Miniature art can be traced back to ancient Egyptian manuscripts on papyrus scrolls. The genre of miniature painting in the sub-continent belongs to Mughal painting, which in terms of technique is closely linked to the age-old tradition of miniature painting. The paintings are recording of court life, royal portraits, exotic flora and fauna, and hunting and garden scenes.

The history of miniature painting is also seen throughout the world in various other cultures. It is a traditional style of art that is very detailed. This art form continues today by artists from around the globe. Nowadays the artists use miniature painting in today's modern art with new ideas and styles.

An exhibition by Farhat Ali titled "How Did I Get Here?" at Sanat Gallery, Karachi was an amalgamation of traditional Mughal art and animated characters by the artist resulting in paintings that speak for themselves "How Did I Get Here?"

Farhat Ali tried his hand on a new idea in miniature but not a captivating one. After meeting the artist I have the impression that it was a borrowed idea. He was unable to explain his new works and seemed confused. Recently I have met other artists also who cannot explain their works and their paintings and their explanation does not match.

It seemed clearly that by introducing such theme Farhat wanted to create humorous, enlightening and revealing paintings through this blend which might helped him to create a new and novel style of his own. But many art enthusiasts and art connoisseurs saw his paintings as something laughably inadequate and absurd.

Whatever an experiment an artist wanted to do with a genre or technique of visual art there must be no compromise on the traditions of that technique but here the "spirit of miniature" is lost somewhere between the traditional characters and cartoons. There must be miniature art societies as in the western society to help promote and preserve traditional miniature art and the "spirit of miniature".

He has fused the historical images appearing to dissolve into sensuous, contemporary forms and narratives. Exercising his liberty abounding with dramatic colours he tried to create a romantic atmosphere in almost all the paintings.

These dramatic and romantic expressions are traditionally present in the technique of miniature. He may be wanted to explore the creativity between tradition and modernity.

Miniatures are intense referring to an elemental passion that is both intuitive and instinctive. But the imagery in Farhat's paintings was mainly representative of female forms and cartoon characters whereas in some pieces a Mughal male figure replace the female figure thus lacking creativity and charm that is associated with miniature art. In some of the works he used religious icons of other cultures and some fairy tale characters other than Disney cartoons.

He adjusts human and animal cartoon characters with the Mughal court females and male figures in various gestures and situations. He balanced his compositions with rich colours against monotone background, which some times have two or three colours but devoid of other structures or foliage. While in some paintings he painted shrubs and herbs, a flower or a couch to create a situation or a scene for the characters. The theme of his paintings is mainly love depicting two characters a male and a female one from Mughal era the other a cartoon character but in some paintings animal cartoons replaces human charcters.

Blending opulent figures and dazzling colours in his paintings Farhat Ali said in a statement, "This body of work is an institutional critique on the genre of miniature painting. The miniature being a grossing popular culture in Pakistani art world fuses with the popular culture of home entertainment programs. The flatness of cartoons and miniature was the inspiring theme, which leads to these images, which when read; unfolds many layers of grief, love, war, passion and fear; which is the unveiled layer in many of cartoon series. To unveil the hidden layer behind these narratives is my prime concern, through which I am trying to make viewers to see the layers of meanings hidden behind the surfaces of miniature paintings as well as of cartoons."


Copyright Business Recorder, 2015