Partition in 1947 saw the subcontinent divided into India and Pakistan with Bangladesh created out of East Pakistan in 1971. As with many modern cultures contemporary South-East Asian art shows political, post-colonial and religious influences together with those of the women's movements, globalisation and the use of new technologies. New markets are opening up for artists across the spectrum of the arts. Linked to this are questions of national identity, nationhood and the essence of South-East Asian art today.
The National College of Arts (NCA) in Lahore houses a department of miniature painting. Art training at the college combines a colonial legacy of instruction in academic fine art together with workshop practice based on the strict ustad (master-disciple) tradition. The regime is harsh and students are only allowed to experiment in their final year. Imran Qureshi is a graduate of this training. 'Historical accuracy was apparently a standard trait of Mughal miniature painting, yet what fascinates Qureshi most about such work is its spectacular duplicity .Qureshi's work springs from a fusion of admiration and interrogation of the tradition of miniature painting' (p56, Whilies, 2003). A Lover Waiting for His Beloved, 1999 by Qureshi (opaque watercolour on Wasli, 25.5 x 19cm) shows two identical, blue-faced male figures staring up towards the sky in opposite directions and is a reference to Krishna and Radha. It could also be a reference Qureshi's interest in linking the personal and the political.
Click here to view Qureshi's painting
Qureshi's work demonstrates one example of a contemporary artist drawing upon many influences in his work: personal, traditional and global. Can we gain an insight into this new work through investigation of the miniatures in the Collection? Moreover, by understanding Qureshi's work and other contemporary artists we can obtain a better understanding of the miniature paintings within the Sainsbury Collection?
Sub-topics to follow on new miniature painters, issues of nationhood, and the contemporary art sceneLaura Williams | Jan 2004