Shahzia Sikander

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When finding a definition for ‘art’ the only phrase that comes to my mind is the expression of one’s creative skill and imagination. The word imagination brings out this thought of largeness and expressiveness to me and therefore when viewing a large painting, one immediately gets drawn towards it and tries to create a connection with the painting. Shahzia Sikander was an artist who was known for her embrace of miniaturist paintings in the Indo-Persian style. To many, miniature paintings seemed somewhat restrictive because of the space present for the artists to express themselves and are also looked at as a “faded genre that had more to do with craft and technique than genuine expression”(Bhaha, Homi). But according to me, Sikander’s artwork successfully portrayed her thoughts and helped us gain knowledge about her culture. What attributes to making her paintings so acknowledged is the way her artwork embodies not only her culture but also “works across diverse cultural references – Hindu, Christian, Classical, mythological and folkloric” (Rachel Kent). When talking about ‘elements of narrative’ in artwork, I feel that one is referring to the way in which the particular artwork is portrayed and the techniques that the artist has used to portray his/her skill and imagination. Viewing all of Sikander’s artwork, the one element that is seen as having and influence on all her works of art is her cultural background. Her adoption of the miniaturist tradition took place while she was studying at the National College of Arts in Lahore, Pakistan where this form of art was seen as an “unconventional choice that conjured associations with imperialism on one hand and, on the other, deeply rooted local traditions of story-telling and popular mythology” (Rachel Kent). One of the reasons that it felt like story telling and popular mythology to me was because when viewing each painting, it felt like one was viewing a page from a book. The paintings looked flat like a page but...
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