When someone uses the word ‘miniaturism’, one is reminded of the miniature paintings which were very popular in the Mughal era. This art then later moved to the courts of Rajput kings. These miniature paintings described the beauty of the queens and the valor of the emperors, in addition to showcasing daily scenes from court and beauty of nature. At one point in time, the art was on the verge of dying.
However, a group of artists in Pakistan have taken up this as a challenge to revive this art which was getting lost given the modern media. This group of new-age contemporary artists was an attempt to revive the dying art. Now, this movement has been taken ahead by artists in Pakistan and gave it a contemporary look. This movement is called ‘Neo-Miniaturism” and the paintings are called Neo Miniaturist.
Origin of New-Miniaturism:
The origin of this revivalist movement can be traced to Pakistan and that too specifically to the miniature department at the National College of Arts of Lahore. It was at this art institute that this art movement was born. Among the people, who acted as the early proponents, were Pakistani artists, such as Shahzia Sikander, among others. The legacy left behind by these early artists were taken to the next level by the next generation of stalwart painters like Imran Qureshi, Aisha Khalid, Nusra Latif Qureshi, Saira Wasim among others.
In this new foray in reinventing the historical tradition of Mughal and Pahari miniatures, the paintings are done, if not entirely restricted, in similar miniature forms but extended to reflect contemporary politics and socio-economic realities. These neo-miniaturists follow a similar regime of rigour and deftness, along with a visual borrowing from the traditional miniature while at the same time experimenting with the form and content with new media and installation along similar aesthetic lines.
What is Neo Miniaturist painting?
Neo-Miniaturist art is like a revival movement to revive the art of creating miniature paintings, which were very popular during the Mughal era. The seeds of this revival movement can be found in the miniature department of the National College of Arts, Lahore. This was the breeding ground for various proponents of new-miniaturism.
These new forms of miniature paintings apart from traditional topics cover many contemporary topics like politics and socio-economic conditions of society. These neo-miniaturists borrow art from traditional miniature art and mix it with experimentation to come up with innovative art.
Pakistan’s role in promoting neo-miniaturist paintings:
In the current times, a tribe of new-age miniature artists have taken the world by storm. They have picked up the dying art and have infused a breath of fresh air by transforming it into cutting-edge modernism displaying a range of contemporary themes and the plight of the common people.
In many ways, Pakistan's neo-miniaturists artists have revived the dying art, which had roots in their own culture, which had been reduced to a ‘folk art’ by the artists from West. Now, the art is seen as having its seeds in the past, with the application of modern art. The artists and art lovers across the world, see this as a new face of Pakistani art. This has globalized Pakistani culture and has inspired many generations of artists within and outside Pakistan. Now, neo-miniaturist paintings have a huge market across the world.
How is it done?
Neo-miniaturist paintings are done using a special paper, called wasli. The colours are mixed in mussel shells, and artists make many small repetitive brush strokes called pardakht. This is the characteristics of all miniature paintings.
The neo-miniaturist artists from Pakistan have done a great revival work of this traditional art and have expanded the scope and language of this art. They have experimented a lot with the traditional miniature art and given it a more contemporary look, both in terms of topics and presentation.
Neo-miniatures artist has retained the age-old traditional techniques and has made it rich by incorporating contemporary themes. The entry of Neo-Miniaturist art into western art galleries and private collection of art lovers is recognition of the rigorous technique and innovative themes used by Pakistani artists. This art from Pakistan has found a set of discernible buyers in the global art market.