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December 22, 2010 / the s.a. project

opinions, sides and small penises

one of my fav pieces from Khalil Chishty's works

today was a strange day.

It started off with a discussion on life, identity, labels and selling-out. The MA students had a talk with Khalil Chishty as he showed his work and talked about his artistic journey. You can see his complete works and profile at his website

While some of things were a 100% spot on with me – such as the market dictating the success of an artist, and the investors making sure their investments in art would be secure not only for now, but for a long time to come, by promoting their selected artists – I did not agree with his opinion on discarding all aspects of identity in order to free oneself of contempt of others. I just don’t think it’s so black and white. I told him so too. Sure I agree that highlighting differences have been the root of countless conflicts, but differences also make us who we are and can be beautiful too. Such as languages, foods, cultures, clothes.

Like Khalil Chishty, I do know that I also don’t want to be identified as one kind of an –ism artist . And yes my work is not specifically about being a woman and a Muslim and a Pakistani. But these things have made my personality and it’s what makes me different. Whether I accept it or not. Like Mizna, an MA student said, differences make us unique.

I felt torn on another discussion that stemmed from casting off labels. While I also feel that miniature painting is perhaps the most used and abused art form from this country, I felt it was unfair of him to discard miniature art as an exotic art that sells internationally, and hence the sole reason for its practice, and has no other creative aspect to it. Unintentionally or otherwise, that opinion discards all miniature students as potential opportunists. I feel, what miniature art has come to symbolize today in the commercial art market should in no way demean its status as an art form.

More and more of our artists are stuck in this rut of removing labels. I don’t question an artist’s reasons. They decide things based on what makes sense to them. And art should allow that freedom. But how does one de-label-ize oneself. (I don’t even know if that’s a term!). Shouldn’t we first look at who applies the labels? Just because the west’s Orientalist eye looks at our art forms as ‘exotic’, do we necessarily reject that in pursuit of the contemporary?

YAHAAN WARZISH KARNAA MANAA HAI (Exercise Not Allowed Here)- 2005

Last year, after a fantastic talk between Huma Mulji and the MA students – in which we saw most of her work and artistic development – the session unfortunately ended on a surprisingly very condescending note (for me) with Huma declaring  that miniature art is done by people stuck in the past and who can’t embrace the present and the future.

Bashir Ahmed

This perhaps is ironically exactly like those who reject contemporary art practices. For instance, Bashir Sahab walking into our studio and squinting at my text works and saying: kuch kaam bhi keriya ker kadhi. Or Asif Sahab (the previous HOD Fine Arts) refusing to mark  our 3rd yr experimental contemporary art assignments (in 2003) because he didn’t consider such work to be Art.

All these judgments by educators of art makes my head spin. Must I take sides? Must I choose what kind of art I like/want to practice? Must I adhere to guidelines?

On a different note: The day ended with me getting stuck on the mall road for 2 hours in a traffic jam. It’s happened countless times before in the years that I have been driving/or being driven on the mall road – mostly because of VIP movement or protests. Today, though, it was a display of complete and utter assholishness on the part of impatient people who break lines, lights, rules and common civic sense.

At the end of the day, I realize that Brazilian public service advertisements have it right when they say bad driving and display of aggression and macho-ism on the roads is a sign of inferiority due to a small penis. There I said it. Small penis. Again.


Leave a Comment
  1. saba / Dec 22 2010 10:58 pm

    i totalllly agree with khalil chishtee and huma on miniaturists. i think they are digging a hole for themselves and there will soon come a saturation point when all their western buyers will not find them exotic anymore. they need to reinvent. I think shazia sikander recognizes the dilemma and is already moving into video and other media to be a step ahead of the game.
    if its so important to be holding on to your roots then why isn’t there a course of gandhara sculpture techniques and why isn’t anyone using those as inspirations??

    • the s.a. project / Dec 22 2010 11:08 pm

      but saturation is a crisis point for all art markets and countries. trends change, fads take over and pass away. terrible as it might be. as i said, i agree that the miniature market is being trashed out, BUT does that necessarily take the value of it as an art form down and out. when i talked to you about your experience of your Masters in America, you mentioned how the gallery scene there intimidated you because it was all about the big and the bad and the shock value and the vaginas. because they were rejecting their own conventional styles. unfortunately the art market is a phenomena that is hard to ignore. and i hate that! and its hard to understand it, have a clear stance or even talk about it straight! just like right now, i dont even know if i made any coherent point here!

  2. gus gus / Dec 22 2010 11:05 pm

    probably because people who knew those techniques are dead and if there are any i’m pretty sure they are busy counting fat wads of money that they have earned by being “contemporary abstract artists” ; and really miniature artist work more more that painters ( even if it’s killing me to say this ) ; traditional wala art that is ; and also no offense but saying that miniature artist’s are digging a hole for themselves is a very mean thing to say !!!

  3. saba / Dec 23 2010 1:02 am

    Sorry mizna,
    I meant carving a space

    • Mizna / Dec 25 2010 10:43 pm

      that wasnt me… this is ME !
      i agree with all that is to do with miniature painting and the market and blah blah and being a person trained in this discipline i also don’t agree with a lot happening under the umbrella of miniature painting EXCEPT the blame that EVERYONE who does it is an opportunist….and NO its not because i do a bit of it myself… i would feel the same way if people called very digital art/painting blah blah person an opportunist…..

  4. anonymous neurotic brain / Dec 23 2010 1:33 am

    i think at the end of the day it is the difference that make us who we are….either its language, culture, belief, family, friends, food, clothes or even the kind of art work we do… all these things have impact on one’s personality – but again it varies just because of the difference in human nature – if you are trained as a miniature painter and you have a passion for it and u end up living in amreeeeeka, u cant just start producing sculpture pieces because you don’t want to add in to the list of exotic Pakistani muslim miniaturist – you’ll do it because that’s what you know and may be that’s what make you content.. but the case can entirely be different when you are doing it just because you are trained as a miniature painter and you have someone on your back to whisper your name in gora land and on the top of that you also know it sells – then even if you are in amreeka or Africa or were brought up in larkana stitching your hair on wasli to the point where you might end up loosing all your hair one day and still not knowing what does that mean or why the hell you are doing it – just because it sells and it has a market demand, how long you think that those kind of exotic artist will survive? Hah i dont know myself if i made any consistent point here but yeah knowing your identity first i believe is the beginning of something.

    • the s.a. project / Dec 23 2010 10:32 pm

      neurotic, i think you made some very valid points even if you talk just like me….i.e. a blithering idiot.

      however, TODAY, i found a completely new founded respect for Chishti sahab. and thats because i saw his wife, Ruby Chishti’s work and found out how he doesnt at ALL enforce his ideology or beliefs onto her work – which is all about identity and histories. considering that they have been married and working together for almost 26+ years, that is quite a feat!

  5. anonymous neurotic brain / Dec 23 2010 11:57 pm

    i second you 😀

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