Text | Nusrat Khawaja
Visuals | Aisha Khalid Studio

A huge event on the art landscape of Karachi this winter has been the opening of the Aisha Khalid retrospective. Aisha Khalid is included among the foremost contemporary or neo-miniaturist artists of Pakistan. This retrospective, spanning her oeuvre from 1994 to 2021, enables us to appreciate the diverse forms of her artistic endeavor and equally, to hone upon the signature characteristics that make the work uniquely the expression of Aisha Khalid.

Aisha belongs to the pioneering generation of modern miniaturists, all of whom trained at the National College of Arts (NCA) in Lahore. They were taught the methods of traditional miniature painting (such as making, and painting with squirrel-hair brushes on wasli paper) which they mastered. The contemporariness in their work stemmed from the innovations they introduced to the traditional art of the miniature. They individualized the figures and frequently referenced themselves in their portrayal. They included autobiographical and subjective narratives. By expanding the scale of the work in size and content, and by the introduction of contemporary themes, the neo-miniaturists proved that a traditional art form could easily flex into modernity. They also diversified their choice of materials to include fabric, videography, etc. The art of miniature painting has in this manner undergone a radical and fascinating revamp. The Aisha Khalid retrospective takes its title ‘I Am and I Am Not’ from a poem by the incomparable Rumi, whose verses Aisha has used to title several other artworks.