7 Top Pakistani Painters to Check Out

From traditional miniature painting to modernist abstraction, Pakistani painters have made significant contributions to the global art world.

7 Top Pakistani Painters to Check Out

They explore complex themes of identity, history and the human experience.

Pakistani painters have made wonderful contributions to the arts.

Many works often blend a sense of cultural heritage with contemporary influences.

Common themes in their artwork include complexities of identity, migration, and the notion of belonging.

We dive into 7 popular Pakistani painters, making their mark on other painters and offering stunning compositions.

These paintings are thought-provoking, inspiring and captivating.

Rashid Rana

Rashid Rana is one of the unique Pakistani painters who is known for his unusual yet innovative approach to art.

As a prime example, he blends tradition as well as contemporary techniques in his work.

His work interestingly explores themes of culture, identity, globalisation and his perspective on modern life.

He is known for his photo mosaics and digital collages.

His style incorporates juxtaposing elements in his compositions.

One notable work is his “Desperately Seeking Paradise” which is a series of large-scale photo mosaics.

It depicts urban landscapes in particular.

Once there is a closer look one can see there are intricate smaller photographs within the larger frame.

Another one of his works was the “Red Carpet”. He created a large detailed carpet pattern.

This was made using tiny images of slaughtered animals.

It is a moving piece as it makes one question beauty and violence.

Rashid Rana’s work has been exhibited internationally, including in prestigious venues such as the Musée Guimet in Paris, the Saatchi Gallery in London, and the Asia Society Museum in New York.

Shahzia Sikander

This painter is renowned for her work in contemporary miniature paintings.

In terms of technique, she blends Indo-Persian miniature painting with different media and themes.

Her work often explores themes of identity, gender, cultural history and the post-colonial experience.

“The Scroll” is one of her early works. It incorporates miniature elements within the painting. However, the size of the frame is large.

The purpose is to make a person reflect on their life. Particularly current and contemporary life.

Another one of her works is called “Disruption as Rapture”.

This a lovely piece that uses mixed media.

It has drawing, painting and animation.

The piece’s chaotic nature reflects the chaos and disorder one faces in contemporary society.

In particular, this piece is drawn from the perspective of historical narratives.

Shahzia Sikander’s work has been exhibited in numerous prestigious venues around the world.

Including the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, and the Guggenheim Museum.

Saira Wasim

Another artist, amongst many other painters, has explored miniature paintings.

However, what sets her apart are the issues that are highlighted in her work.

They depict political and social issues.

The use ofminiature-sized detail is almost a personal commentary on contemporary events and global politics.

It is interesting that even though her work is somewhat serious as it tackles prevalent issues, she uses satire in her pieces as a tool to further project her message.

The purpose of her art, arguably, is to convey powerful messages that resonate with society.

She uses art as a voice to comment on issues, which is a lovely way to express oneself when the verbal voice is sometimes disempowered.

One notable work is “The Great Game”, whereby Wasim explores in particular the historical and ongoing geopolitical struggles in South Asia.

To the naked eye, it may seem merely a beautiful aesthetic piece.

However, upon closer inspection, there are numerous hidden meanings in the painting.

For instance, there are subtle representations of political leaders and contemporary issues.

Another work of hers is the “American Dream”. This explores identity and migration.

In particular drawing from her experiences of immigrants in the US.

This piece suggests the issues that these immigrant communities face.

For instance, it represents a sense of cultural assimilation, i.e., when a group of people blends into the ways of others through social conditioning.

Saira Wasim’s work has been exhibited internationally.

Including prestigious venues such as the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco, and the Pacific Asia Museum in Pasadena.

Huma Bhabha

Huma Bhabha is best known for her sculptures, however, her work also includes paintings, drawings and photography.

In her work, she explores themes of post-apocalyptic landscapes, the human figure, and the intersection of different cultures and histories.

Some of her work is characterised by her materials of choice, such as clay, styrofoam, cork and wood.

Her sculptures appear to be a combination of her experiences in her tradition and modernised line and paint technique.

One of her pieces which was made in 2017, has a combination of interesting brushstrokes and colour.

It has a somewhat creepy and evil sentiment in the figure.

It could be interpreted as an internal struggle but it also shouts sadness, confusion and loss of identity.

Another one of her works was in an exhibition in 2020. It is of a man with red eyes, his outline is very messy and appears quite evil.

This is juxtaposed with the background which is a pretty vivid pink.

It’s also interesting to note that the figure shows his front and back. There are two circles to signify his rear whilst he is facing forward.

Huma Bhabha’s work has been exhibited in venues such as the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Venice Biennale, and the Centre Pompidou in Paris.

Imran Qureshi

Imran is a great painter who explores themes of violence, beauty and the resilience of the human spirit.

He would often use very intricate detail and at times incorporate miniature paintings within a larger frame.

His work addresses modern issues and several themes i.e. themes include the symbolism of what the past and present signify to him.

Moreover, his work is slightly abstract to signify internal conflict but also a notion of perseverance.

In one of his works, in 2013, he used floral motifs which were interspersed with red paint.

This piece was to symbolise the battle of violence and beauty through a lens of resilience.

Another painting, that was similar to this was “Blessings Upon the Land of My Love” which featured floral patterns again but this time the red paint was splattered to resemble blood.

Certain societal struggles and the idea of breaking free from them are prominent in his work.

The background of bricks resembles strength, and the flowers in the blood represent sadness.

Furthermore, it represents that the nature of a human being’s design is beautiful. Through pain and suffering is a person who is trying to blossom their feelings and emotions.

Imran Qureshi’s work has been exhibited in many venues such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Barbican Centre in London, and the Sharjah Art Foundation.

Ali Kazim

Ali Kazim is known for his meticulous and detailed paintings that often explore the human form, history, and mythology.

His work is characterised by a deep sense of introspection and a focus on the physical and emotional aspects of the human condition.

Kazim frequently uses watercolour and gouache on paper, creating delicate and intricate compositions that reflect his interest in traditional techniques and contemporary themes.

One of his series works “Main of Faith”, explores themes of spirituality and devotion.

The works often depict solitary figures in contemplative poses, reflecting on the inner life and the search for meaning.

In his “The Water Series”, Kazim uses the motif of water to explore themes of purification, transformation, and the passage of time.

The paintings often feature figures submerged in or interacting with water, creating a sense of fluidity and movement.

Another series is his “The Body” series, whereby, Kazim focuses on the human body, exploring its physicality and vulnerability.

The paintings often depict fragmented or distorted figures, reflecting the fragility of the human condition and the impact of time and experience on the body.

Ali Kazim’s work has been exhibited in the British Museum in London, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and the Fukuoka Asian Art Museum in Japan.

Anwar Jalal Shemza

Anwar Jalal Shemza was a modernist painter whose work combined elements of Islamic art with Western abstraction.

His artistic style is characterised by a unique visual language that blends calligraphy, geometric patterns, and abstract forms.

Shemza’s work often explores themes of identity, cultural heritage, and the intersection of different artistic traditions.

His “Roots” series are paintings that explore Shemza’s connection to his cultural heritage.

The works often feature abstracted forms of trees and roots, symbolising the artist’s exploration of his identity and the influence of his cultural background.

Another series was “City Wall”. Here reflects Shemza’s interest in architecture and urban landscapes.

The paintings often depict abstract forms of city walls and structures, exploring themes of space, structure, and the built environment.

Anwar Jalal Shemza’s work has been exhibited in the Tate Gallery in London, the Lahore Museum in Pakistan, and the National Gallery of Modern Art in New Delhi.

He participated in several important exhibitions and art fairs, gaining recognition for his innovative approach to combining Islamic art with modernist abstraction.

Through these painters’ works, they explore complex themes of identity, history, and the human experience, bridging the gap between tradition and modernity.

Their contributions not only enrich the Pakistani art scene but also resonate on a global scale, inspiring audiences worldwide.

They represent the culture and a certain dynamic of the spirit of  Pakistani art.

Kamilah is an experienced actress, radio presenter and qualified in Drama & Musical Theatre. She loves debating and her passions include arts, music, food poetry and singing.

Images courtesy of Gallery Chemould, Whitney Museum of American Art, The Walrus, David Kordan Sky Gallery, Contemporary Arts Centre, Art Plugged, Hales Gallery, North Park Centre and University of Oxford.

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