When Shahzia Sikander entered art school in Lahore, Pakistan in 1987, no one else at her school focused on traditional manuscript painting.
The art of creating painted miniatures had fallen out of favor, but for Sikander it became the perfect opportunity to embrace a non-colonial art form. She is a pioneer of Contemporary “Miniature” (Neo-Miniature) manuscript painting.
Shazia infuses her intricately ornate paintings with contemporary themes exploring cultural identity, race and colonial and postcolonial histories. This is the last weekend for the exhibit that explores the first 15 years of the Pakistani American artist’s work at RISD Museum in Providence, RI, said the museum in an announcement. It will end on Sunday, January 30th.
Shahzia Sikander was born in 1969 in Lahore, Pakistan. Educated as an undergraduate at the National College of Arts in Lahore, she received her MFA in 1995 from the Rhode Island School of Design.
According to Sikander’s bio, posted on art21.org, she specializes in Indian and Persian miniature painting, a traditional style that is both highly stylized and disciplined. While becoming an expert in this technique-driven, often impersonal art form, she imbued it with a personal context and history, blending the Eastern focus on precision and methodology with a Western emphasis on creative, subjective expression. In doing so, Sikander transported miniature painting into the realm of contemporary art.
Raised as a Muslim, Sikander is also interested in exploring both sides of the Hindu and Muslim “border,” often combining imagery from both—such as the Muslim veil and the Hindu multi-armed goddess—in a single painting. Sikander has written: “Such juxtaposing and mixing of Hindu and Muslim iconography is a parallel to the entanglement of histories of India and Pakistan.” Expanding the miniature painting to the wall, Sikander also creates murals and installations, using tissue-paper-like materials that allow for a more free-flowing style. In what she labeled performances, Sikander experimented with wearing a veil in public, something she never did before moving to the United States.
Utilizing performance and various media and formats to investigate issues of border crossing, she seeks to subvert stereotypes of the East and, in particular, the Eastern Pakistani woman. Sikander has received many awards and honors for her work, including the honorary artist award from the Pakistan Ministry of Culture and National Council of the Arts. Sikander resides in New York and Texas.
This news first appeared at WBUR. Click here to visit the original.