Zubedia Agha is an incredible creative and a pioneer for modern artistic developments in Pakistan. She is one of the first of her calibre to create art of this kind, particularly as a woman in a period where the artistic works of women were often neglected and hardly exhibited. After the partition, Agha took initiative and was the first artist to hold an exhibition that was for the display of her own work. Agha attended Saint Martin’s School of Art in London following her education at Kinnaird College for Women University in Lahore, and later on went to the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris.
Zubedia Agha created striking work, known for its colourist painting techniques that opened a new genre for modern art creations – she became notorious for her technique. She used particular methods in order to enhance the contextualised meanings behind all of her works that were deeply rooted in discipline and conceptual discussion. Known now as ,’The grande dame of Pakistani art’, her work remains well-known and is on display at the National Art Gallery of Pakistan National Council of the Arts in Islamabad. If you ever get the time – pay a visit!
Shahzia Sikander studied at The National College of Arts Lahore before moving to the US to attend the Rhode Island School of Design. She is known for her versatile and consistently riveting artistic ability across several mediums and techniques – drawings, paintings, printmaking pieces, animations, installations, performance and video works. Similar to other significant Pakistani painters such as Saira Wasim, Sikander also used the Persian pioneered technique of miniature-painting as a foundational influence for her work, shifting this motif in her own way as a Pakistani artist.
“Initially I explored the tension between illustration and fine art when I first encountered miniature painting in my late teens. Championing the formal aspects of the Indo-Persian miniature-painting genre has often been at the core of my practice.”
In this sense, Sikander closely analysed the techniques of traditional form (Mughal and Rajput), merging them to create exceedingly divine works that provoke audiences to contemplate their complexity and shifting style. In The Scroll (1992), a semi-biographical manuscript painting is introduced by Sikander, created with the format historical manuscript printing to allow indulge the authenticity of her work.
A Pakistani contemporary artist, Huma Mulji’s work has been internationally displayed in collections such as the Saatchi Gallery in London and the Asia Society Museum. Her work also contains valuable contextual meaning, and in particular explores the theme of displacement with mental and physical scope. Similar to a few other exceptionally talented female Pakistani artists, Huma creates work in a plethora of mediums that equally help in making her artwork more impactful.
‘The suite of 20 photos and an inkjet print document school uniforms across Karachi and Lahore, wryly looking at uniformity and difference; the camera picking up sameness and difference in fashion, ethnicity, personal style, and the impossibility of a regimented oneness.’
Zehra Laila Javeri
An artistic feminist, Zehra Laila Javeri creates globally themed pieces that she describes as being based on gender and its complexities. Zehra has been creating work since her early years, and her first show called Weeds, displayed at the Canvas gallery in Karachi, had been in the process of creation for 20 years. Her work predominantly uses women as stimuli for creative process, describing that she is particularly compelled toward the faculty of emotion, and the gentile nature of their artistic formation that she chooses to create, ‘For women, you use a circular stroke, and as an artist, my hand naturally moves in circular strokes. It was difficult for me to break my natural stroke to paint a man’, she interestingly expresses.
Sameera Raja (owner of Canvas Gallery, where Zehra’s work has been displayed) commented that Zehra’s work is particularly astounding in its particularity to tone and palette, those that stand out against the likes of other mediums and works that have been seen alongside hers.
Different from the other important and incredibly talented artists we have seen so far, Nigar Nazar showcases her talent in even more unconventional methods for art as a woman in Pakistan. She is the first female Pakistani cartoonist, her most renowned character being an urban Pakistani woman, ‘Gogi’, who battles against imposed social norms against the latter of her frailty.
A while after graduating in Fine Arts from the University of Punjab (Lahore), she founded Gogi Studios – an institute that proactively tackles and discusses a variety of social issues in Pakistan. In alignment with the culture and ethos at Gogi Studios, Nazar’s work mirrors her desire to raise awareness and cause discussion about the social issues that are seen in her awareness comics which touch on women’s rights. Her passion for her practical work is relative to other departments of her career, for example, her creation of the ‘Asian Youth Association for Animators and Cartoonists’, so that other youngsters may follow in her significant footsteps.