“I feel it is necessary for technology to play some role"
Pakistan is a country, which has produced many hidden talents, especially when it comes to minimalist art. Pakistani minimalist artists have become popular for their beautiful approach to minimalism.
Pakistani minimalist artists come from various parts of the country, with some living overseas. Their beautiful artwork is available for enthusiasts to admire all over the world.
Many famous art galleries display and exhibit the fine work of Pakistani minimalist artists.
These artists present minimalism through various forms. The elements include lines, geometric patterns, grids and even simplistic sculptures and photographs.
DESIblitz takes a closer look at 15 best Pakistani minimalist artists and their amazing creations.
Anwar Jalal Shemza
Anwar Jalal Shemza (late) was a Pakistani minimalist artist born in Shimla, India on July 14, 1928. He went to Lahore for further studies.
He studied Persian, Arabic and Philosophy at Punjab University, Lahore in 1943. The following year he studied at Mayo School of Art, attaining an art diploma in 1947.
Whilst he was in Lahore, he established the Shemza Commercial Art Studio. Shemza then went onto becoming editor for the arts and architecture based magazine, Ehsas.
He also became a leading member of the Lahore Art Circle, a group which supported modernism.
Shemza then obtained a fine art diploma from the Slade School of Fine Art, University College London. To learn printmaking with Anthony Gross, Shemza acquired a British Council scholarship in 1960.
However, he became well-known for his mesmerising minimalist artwork.
His inspiration to minimalism sprung from the works of Swiss-German painter Paul Klee who had some exquisite paintings.
Subsequently, Shemza published his Square Composition series in 1963. The series included repetitive, geometric and rhythmic forms of art.
Shemza has several famous pieces of art. In 1967, his piece Meem Two was launched. The piece is on display at Tate Liverpool, which is an international modern and contemporary art museum.
During the 1960s, Shemza also unveiled the Chessmen One (1961), Composition with Number Six (1966) and Forms Emerging (1967). Each of them is unique in their own way, presenting an authentic form of minimalist art.
Shemza and his family eventually moved to England where he became an art teacher. Following his death on January 18, 1985, Shemza’s work was exhibited in London, Oxford, Durham, Lahore and Karachi.
Well-known Pakistani minimalist artist Rasheed Araeen was born on June 15, 1935, in Karachi, Pakistan. After moving from Pakistan to London in 1964, he began his art career.
Araeen is a painter, writer, conceptual artist and a sculpturist. At the beginning of his career, he created minimalistic sculptures, with no training what so ever.
Chakras (1969-1970) and Zero to Infinity (1968-2004) are two of his remarkable sculptures. They are made up of basic shapes and forms such as discs, cubes and lattice.
In 2019, the Garage Museum in Moscow showcased Araeen’s work, Disco Sailing (1970-1974). This idea consisting of a floating sculpture and dance was recognisable globally.
Furthermore, Araeen’s sculptures have been showcased at many exhibitions in Dubai.
They have also been presented at Regent’s Park (London), Aga Khan Centre (London), Aicon Gallery (New York) and Van Abbe Museum (Eindhoven)
In addition, Araeen also has a collection called Opus (2016), which revolves around the idea of basic symmetry. This represents ideas that are conceptual where the paintings present a diagonal grid pattern.
Lala Rukh (late) was born on June 29, 1948, in Lahore, Pakistan. Rukh was a famous Pakistani minimalist artist and women’s rights activist.
Her work included political posters, collages and artistic drawings. Rukh’s photography and drawings are very simplistic, yet they carry deeper meanings and ideologies.
After studying Fine Art at Punjab University, Lahore, her drawings and paintings began to expand into an interdisciplinary practice.
It was during that period in her artistic life where she discovered the linguistic, social, intellectual and music character of drawing.
These artistic elements were shown through her Hieroglyphics III (Roshnion ka Shehr-1) piece in 2005.
Nature was also a core focus for Rukh when drawing and photographing. Her piece River in an Ocean: 4 in 1992 is an example of this.
Rukh’s vision of incorporating music and dance elements into her work originated from early family life. When she was younger, she grew up with some of Pakistan’s most famous musicians, gaining artistic inspiration.
Hence, this influenced Rukh to incorporate music and dance into her drawings. This was quite evident through her art pieces as her lines and image-making began to take shape.
This was also where the series Hieroglyphics (the 1990s) came into action as a linguistic code or a dance score.
Commenting about the element of dance and music used in Rukh’s work, writer Natasha Ginwala says:
“In her “Hieroglyphics” works- drawings which became extended circuits of rhythm and life observations-the counting of a beat is cast into infinitesimal line and curves forms that improbably manage to account for the movement of music, the chasing of light and the interminable shifts of environmental terrain.”
At the age of sixty-nine, Lala Rukh sadly left this world on July 7, 2017, in Lahore, Pakistan.
Imran Mir (late) was born during 1950 in Karachi, Pakistan. He was a Pakistani minimalist artist, as well as a sculptor, a trendy advertiser and a designer.
Mir graduated from the Central Institute of Arts and Crafts, Karachi in 1971. His family did not agree with Mir attending an arts university due to social norms.
However, Mir decided to chase his dreams and increase his amazing talent for art. A couple of years down the line in 1978, Mir put on an exhibition showcasing his work.
Consequently, he had confused many art critics as they did not understand his take on minimalism. The bold and modern art of Mir was certainly a huge change for the arts industry in Pakistan.
Graphic designers had a lot of help from Mir due to his enthusiasm and exceptional taste in art. He has helped many huge Pakistani brands such as Habib Oils, One Potato Two Potato and Dawn News
His art generates from the idea of it being a ‘Paper on Modern Art’. Some examples of this are Seventh Paper on Modern Art and Tenth Paper on Modern Art. These are some of Mir’s most amazing collections.
Mir always had big ideas in mind for his next piece of art. He took inspiration from his travels, often carrying a paper and pencil with him.
Haajra Haider Karrar conducted an interview with Imran Mir for Art Now Pakistan while he was alive. Mir spoke about how he was always trying to keep up with the latest trends and modern designs. He said:
“I feel it is necessary for technology to play some role in an artist’s developmental process even if the involvement is minimal. It indicates an indispensable keeping up with the times we live in.”
Following a protracted illness, at the age of 64, Imran Mir passed away in Karachi on October 28, 2014.
Born in Lahore, Pakistan, during 1968, Rashid Rana is a popular Pakistani minimalist artist of his generation.
In 1992, Rana graduated from National College of Arts in Lahore with a degree in Fine Arts.
In 1994, he then completed a Masters in Fine Arts from Massachusetts College of Art in Boston, Massachusetts, USA.
Rather than solely using a paintbrush and a canvas, Rana uses a variety of methods and materials.
He collaborates with billboard painters, along with creating collages using materials, photo sculptures and mosaics,
The discovery of media and identity is key when Rana creates a work of art. Pop culture is also the main base of his work.
He uses established pieces of art and turns them into his own, using authentic techniques.
His work also consists of everyday issues such as tradition and urbanisation. He offers minimalistic designs using geometric abstracts and often relates to the history of Pakistani art.
Besides Karachi, Rana has taken his work to many exhibitions internationally. These include cities like London, Dubai and Singapore.
One meaningful and mesmerising, artistic piece of Rana’s is The World is Not Enough (2006).
This piece is made up of photographs of social waste from a landfill site near Lahore. Hundreds of images showcasing trash have been digitally stitched onto this piece of art.
The beauty of the image is based upon a portrayal of the city’s decay.
Pakistani minimalist artist Shahzia Sikander was born in Lahore, Pakistan during 1969. In 1992, she studied Fine Arts at the National College of Arts in Lahore.
In 1995, she earnt a Fine Arts Masters degree in Painting and Printmaking from the private Rhode Island School of Design. Ever since then Shahzia has made New York, USA her home.
Shahzia is best known for her Mughal and Persian miniature paintings. However, she also expresses her talents through other forms of art too.
Shahzia is also a muralist, an installation artist, performance artist and a mixed media artist.
She was taught art in the Pakistani, traditional way. However, she cleverly incorporates flares of modernity in her pieces to make them unique.
Her work of minimalism takes inspiration from issues of Middle Eastern identities. Aside from this, she also takes influence from art-historical references.
One example of her minimalist piece is Night Flight (2015-2016). This piece consists of ink, gouache and gold leaves. Many people can find this form of art at the Sean Kelly Gallery, New York.
Moreover, Shazia has made an appearance at various artistic venues, including the Museum of Modern Art (2005) and Museum Ludwig in Germany (1999).
Celebrating her fine pieces of minimalist art, she has won many awards. These include the Joan Mitchell Award (1999), the MacArthur Fellows Program (2006) and the Kipling Award (1993).
Xandria Noir was born in Karachi, Pakistan, during 1972. This self-taught Pakistani minimalist artist who holds a Bachelors in Social Sciences works with drawings, paintings, video art and photography.
She started her career by creating semi-minimalist art on various types of materials. These materials involved, paper, canvas, wood and pottery.
Xandria created landscapes, abstract figures and calligraphy using the aforementioned materials. However, eight years later, her work changed drastically by using more high-quality equipment.
Xandria portrays her personality and views through art, reflecting trauma and emotional suffering. She works on a much larger scale, bringing more definition and meaning to her pieces.
Her work is made up of black, bold strokes, with a contrast of bright colours to stand out from the crowd.
During 2013 and 2014, her work was inspired by Clyfford Still, Jackson Pollock, Robert Motherwell and Franz Kline.
Over the years, her pieces have become much more minimalistic, modern and trendy. She achieves this look through light and lines. She incorporates these via various dimensions, which present weightless spaces.
Xandria creates paintings to anger, upset and frustrate viewers through the different anti-social elements in her art. The body of her work links with sin, temptation, redemption and guilt.
Xandria has presented her impressive minimalist work at the Islamabad Art Festival and Sheraton Gallery in Karachi.
Les Frontieres: Lyon, Anxiety and when I will go after them (2014) are some of her minimalist paintings. Each of them shares different meanings and use various shapes, techniques and colours.
Born in Kuwait City, Kuwait during 1976, Hamra Abbas is a Pakistani minimalist artist. In terms of working and living, Hamra shifts between Boston, USA and Lahore, Pakistan.
Hamra’s artistic work is based upon her own encounters and experiences through an image, a gesture or an icon. Her main purpose is to break down the act of seeing by reconstructing images.
She presents the idea of reconstructing images through photo collages, video installations, sculptures and paintings.
One of her greatest sculptures of all time is the Woman in Black, which was showcased in 2008. The sculpture is two metres tall and represents girl power and the strength of feminism.
She uses an authentic and rather taboo approach when creating her pieces of art. She addresses elements of violence, sexuality, cultural history and devotion.
Her work has been exhibited at many famous art hubs, including the Singapore Art Museum and the Museo Atrium in Spain.
Hamra Abbas is also the proud winner of many influential awards, including the 2011 Abraaj Capital Art Prize. This prize recognises inspirational artists from North Africa, the Middle East and South Asia.
Ayesha Jatoi is a well known Pakistani minimalist artist who was born in Lahore, Pakistan during 1979.
At the National College of Arts in Lahore, Ayesha was trained as a miniature painter and photographer. She was also an editor of the Contemporary Art and Culture magazine, which was published in Lahore.
The relationship between images and texts is a major thematic inspiration for Ayesha’swork. However, in her work, the text disconnects itself from the image.
Ayesha is famous for her work, Please Return, Together Alone (2016), Bus (2016), Court (2016) and many more simple forms of art. The pieces stated are very neutral in colour, include faint lines and are straight to the point.
Her artwork has been exhibited at the India Art Fair repeatedly for many years as she has attracted many viewers. She achieves this by creating art pieces in a way, which engages her audiences.
In remembrance of the 2014 Peshawar Massacre which killed 141 people, Ayesga held the exhibition, Tomorrow.
Held in Toronto, the exhibition was key in representing what tomorrow will hold. This was achieved through manuscripts, muses and so forth.
In 2017, Ayesha went on to establish the Promises to Keep exhibition in New York, which saw eleven other Pakistani female artists participate.
The concept of the exhibition was to see how activism, nationalism, self-parody and feminism connect with one another.
Ali Kazim is a Pakistani minimalist artist born in Pattoki Tehsil, Pakistan during 1979. Kazim is based in Lahore, Pakistan, pursuing his ever so talented and creative career.
Similar to other Pakistani artists, Kazim studied at the National College of Arts in Lahore. He has a Fine Arts Bachelors degree (2002) and Masters in Fine Arts.
Multi-layering is the process, which Ali Kazim undergoes in order to create fine, minimalist pieces of art. This process begins with the use of a pencil, slowly creating layers of water-based and oil paints.
Kazim uses these materials on a canvas to give depth and texture to the piece. As opposed to many other minimalist artists, Kazim mainly paints self-portraits as well as paintings of various other men.
In 2013, Kazim revealed The Storm Series, which were monochrome pieces. This particular series is one of his most minimalist collection of paintings.
The Man of Faith series (2019) includes various minimal paintings of men, whether it be showing a side profile or their back. This unique series is full of meaning, views and self-beliefs.
With Kazim being a popular artist, many galleries have showcased his work.
Some of these galleries and museums include the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York and the Queensland Art Gallery, Australia.
Kazim has won The Melville Nettleship Prize for Figure Composition and the Land Securities Studio Award.
Famous Pakistani minimalist artist Fahd Burki was born in Lahore, Pakistan during 1981. Burki is popular for his minimalist works of art, with many people recognising him internationally for this.
Burki also graduated from the National College of Arts, Lahore in 2003. He later went on to complete a post-graduate diploma from the Royal Academy of Arts, London in 2010.
He creates various pieces such as digital prints and minimalistic paintings. Burki even creates sculptures that cleverly represent personal mythology.
His inspiration comes from cultural and historic symbols, the history of art and popular culture.
Burki plays around with geometric forms, blank spaces, lines and grids.
Some of his exceptional works of art include Gem (2014), Believer (2012) and Saint (2011). Each of them are unique in their own way but share the same forms of art.
Bold colours such as black with a contrast of a few brighter colours like pink and yellow are present in his work.
Burki has had his work showcased in many galleries and exhibitions. Some of the places where his work has been presented include New Delhi, Switzerland, Italy and Dubai.
Burki is a recipient of several awards. During Art Dubai, he was given the John Jones Art on Paper Award.
He won the award for his exceptional, mesmerising skills when creating art on paper.
Waqas Khan was born in Akhtarabad, Pakistan, during 1982 and is a minimalist artist. He has a Bachelors degree in Fine Arts from the National College of Arts in Lahore.
Working on a very large scale, he believes in the idea of leaving visible evidence on the paper. This is what makes his pieces stand out amongst viewers and critics.
Much of his work involves the use of small dots and dashes to create a bigger image on the canvas. When using dots and dashes in his work is, he makes sure that they are always in sync.
Scripting is also something that Waqas Khan likes to encrypt into his work. It creates a discourse between the viewer and himself.
Some examples of Khan’s work are Dancer’s Eye (2014), Forming Spaces XIV (2014) and You, Me, Everyone (2019).
His amazing pieces are part of many collections, which the public can view. These include the British Museum, the Deutsche Bank Collection in Germany and the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art in India.
Known for his abstract circle drawings, his Tranquil Pool artistic is exceptional.
Iqra Tanveer is a minimalist artist who was born in Karachi, Pakistan during 1983. She studied at Karachi University, graduating from the Department of Visual Studies in 2007.
In 2009, Iqra went on to complete a post-graduate diploma from Beaconhouse National University in Lahore. Ever since then Iqra has become a very influential artist.
Iqra primarily works with photo, video and kinetic sculptures. Her art tends to often challenge the views of reality and illusion.
An example of this is her piece, Eclipse (2013), which consists of shade and light and holds significant meanings.
For her exhibition titled Between Earth and Sky, she reached out to research the meaning behind ‘personal reality.’ Iqra achieved this by using a light adaption technique, photography and other techniques.
In a conversation with Enum Naseer from The News on Sunday, Iqra spoke about the meaning and inspiration behind her work. She states:
“A lot of my works are related to existential texts—understanding reality, existence and the reason of existence.
“To a certain level, it becomes very spiritual also but I don’t like calling it spiritual because I feel that in today’s context, the word has taken a very superficial meaning.”
Her work has been exhibited in various group and solo exhibitions across different countries. These include Italy, India, Russia and the United Arab Emirates.
Best known for highlighting minimalism, Amna Tariq is a Pakistani artist who was born in Rawalpindi, Pakistan during 1985.
Amna received a major at the National College of Arts, Lahore in 2008. She studied Siah Qalam (miniature) and printmaking.
A woman of many talents, Amna also has a major in Animation and Painting. Her pieces of art show off her endless skills and talent.
In her Limited Edition of 5 Collection, here pieces of work solely consist of swirls. Each image is different from one another due to the use of different colours and tones.
The direction of the swirls are also slightly different in each image.
For example, her Swirls Series 4 involves colours such as greys, shades of pink, black and white. The image seems to be quite 3D too in terms of the direction and shape of the swirls.
Swirls Series 2, on the other hand, consists of shades of blue and green, grey, white and hints of orange. The swirls in this image, however, are facing in a completely different direction compared to Swirls Series 4.
In terms of exhibiting her marvellous work, Amna tends to attend a fair share of exhibitions. In 2010, Amna took part in the ‘Art without boundaries’ exhibition in Dubai.
Amna has also showcased her work at the ‘Day after tomorrow’ event in Lahore, Pakistan in 2012. She mainly presents her work across galleries and exhibitions in Pakistan.
Shumaila Islam who is a minimalist artist based in Lahore, Pakistan has a certificate in Calligraphy and Illumination
She likes to use nature when creating pieces of art. These help Shumaila to generate her feelings and observations.
Shumaila utilises Vasli (hand- made paper), using ink, gauche and pointers. She uses these to apply 3D metal articles on her miniature pieces.
Shumaila has taken part in many group shows and gained her place in the spotlight internationally. This is down to her endless talents and phenomenal pieces of art.
It is evident that Shumaila enjoys using nature as the foundation when creating her art.
Her mesmerising piece, Mystic Beauty is a magnificent painting, showing a side view of a woman in colour.
She has incorporated nature into this piece by painting a huge flower on her hair. Around the image, are leaves in bright colours and flowers too.
However, she also creates inspirational and meaningful pieces such as the Honour Killing.
This piece consists of a deep red rose with a needle going through it. Behind the rose, viewers can see the rose ‘bleeding’ as it lets off blood in shades of pink.
Moreover, Honour Killing implies that those who have become victims of it are being compared to a rose. Suggesting they are beautiful, fragile and kind-hearted.
The image instantly makes viewers sympathise with those it has affected. Saatchi Art holds this piece of art in their online gallery.
Her piece Transformation II is also an interesting piece. The painting shows a foetus in a womb, with dramatic, bold colours coming out at the top.
The image represents growth and a new life through her impeccable art.
Minimalism will forever be trending no matter the season or year. Pakistani minimalist artists are continuously striving and making a mark.
Consequently, they are the voice for their country, helping to understand and acknowledge a wide range of issues.
Instead of being verbal, Pakistani minimalist artists express their ideas through their exquisite pieces of art.