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Contemporary Pakistani Printmaking

by Exhibition Curator Ali Raza

On View: October 16, 2004 – November 26, 2004
Saturday, October 16, 2004 from 6:30 pm – 9:00 pm

This fall, Highpoint will present a group show focusing on the work of contemporary Pakistani printmakers—the first exhibit of its kind in Minneapolis. Contemporary Printmakers from Pakistan will feature over sixty works by artists from all regions of Pakistan, reflecting the visual and methodological diversity of their art world. Among the show’s participants are contemporary pioneers of Pakistani printmaking, such as Anwar Saeed, Afshar Malik, Nazish Ata Ullah, Naiza Khan and Laila Rehman. Atif Khan, Samina Iqbal, Zaira Ahmad, Sameera Khan and Fatima Saeed—all significant members of Pakistan’s younger generation of artists—will also have work in the exhibit.

Featuring a variety of printmaking techniques, this show will highlight some contemporary issues as seen through the eyes of these ten artists. How do these artists link Pakistani post-colonial identity with the South Asian multicultural past? How do they respond to the contemporary issues of art world? What are the concerns of women artists while living in a male-dominated society? What is their take on other current socio-political issues from their part of the world? These are just a few of the topics addressed by work in the exhibit.

Contemporary Printmakers from Pakistan will open with a reception on Saturday, October 16th, from 6:30 – 9:00 PM. Anwar Saeed, Nazish Ata Ullah and Afshar Malik—three artists from the show—will be on hand to discuss the art and answer questions. All are invited to attend this free event. The exhibit closes on November 26.

The history of printmaking in Pakistan is older than the country’s birth. In the last quarter of the 19th century, the British government established four major art & craft schools in different parts of the sub-continent. After independence from British colonials, and after separating from multicultural India in 1947, the Mayo School of Art in Lahore became part of Pakistan’s cultural geography. In an effort to disclaim the colonial past, the Mayo School changed its name in 1958 to its present name, the National College of Arts (NCA) Lahore.

Currently, there are several art schools in Pakistan that offer bachelor degrees in printmaking. There is no doubt, however, that the National College of Arts (NCA) has been playing the most significant role in shaping the history of Pakistani art and connecting it with rest of the art world. From introduction of Euro-centric Modernism in Pakistan to the revival and introduction of Indian miniature painting in today’s world art scene, National College of Arts provided the platform for inter-exchanges of such ideas. NCA is the oldest and most respected South Asian art school for its keeping of printmaking tradition alive in the region throughout the past century.

Despite the creation and development of these independent national colleges, Pakistan’s historical connections with the colonial past have not completely vanished. Many freshly graduated printmakers from NCA and other Pakistani art schools travel to England’s Slade School of Art, Chelsea School of Art or London Royal College of Art to pursue graduate programs in printmaking. Many of this show’s participants have adopted the same or similar route for their art education.

In addition, the environment for printmaking in modern-day Pakistan is not as conducive as it is in the USA or Europe. This is due to a number of reasons. To begin with, the medium is limited to the art schools’ facilities and studios. Combined with the expensive import of basic materials and printmaking machinery from abroad, the medium is often out of reach for middle-class artists.

The exhibit at Highpoint is an attempt to acknowledge the role of contemporary printmakers of Pakistan who are nonetheless striving to survive. By associating themselves with the orbit of art institutions as instructors, students, visiting artists, or even just by serving as external examiners for the final year students’ thesis show, Pakistan’s printmakers are able maintain access to their medium. Hopefully, Contemporary Printmakers from Pakistan will establish a link and understanding of Pakistani art to audiences of the Twin Cities.

About Guest Curator Ali Raza:

Ali Raza is co-curating the show of Pakistani Printmakers in collaboration with Highpoint Center for Printmaking. He graduated from the National College of Arts Lahore as a painter in 1991, and taught printmaking at NCA for four years. He came to the USA in 1998 to pursue his MFA at the University of Minnesota, graduating in 2001 with a major in Drawing and Painting, and a minor in Art History. While living in Minneapolis, he worked for two years as an adjunct faculty member in the Drawing & Painting department at Regis Center of Art, University of Minnesota. Ali recently was hired as Assistant Professor at the Appalachian State University at Boone, North Carolina.

Ali has shown his prints and mixed-media works in major group shows such as: “Printmakers of Pakistan 1947–1997” at Bradford Museum in Bradford, England, and “Pakistan: Another Vision” at Brunei Gallery, London. His major recent shows include “Painting Over the Lines: Five Contemporary Artists from Pakistan” at Indo Center of Art and Culture, Chelsea, NY in 2002; “Takhti” at Art Gallery of Mississauga, Canada in 2003; and “Masala: Diversity and Democracy in South Asian Art,” at William Benton Museum, Storrs, Connecticut in 2004.

Participating Artists:

  • Anwar Saeed
  • Afshar Malik
  • Nazish Ata Ullah
  • Naiza Khan
  • Laila Rehman
  • Atif Khan
  • Samina Iqbal
  • Zaira Ahmad
  • Sameera Khan
  • Fatima Saeed
Earlier Event: September 10
Gráfica Política
Later Event: December 3
Prints on Ice 2004