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Illuminated Geographies: Pakistani Miniaturist Practice in the Wake of the Global Turn

January 17 - March 31
Tisch Gallery
Featuring new works by Ambreen Butt, Faiza Butt, Murad Khan Mumtaz, and Saira Wasim. Guest curated by Justine Ludwig, adjunct curator Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati.


The Tufts University Art Gallery at the Shirley and Alex Aidekman Arts Center proudly presents Illuminated Geographies: Pakistani Miniaturist Practice in the Wake of the Global Turn, featuring new works by Ambreen Butt, Faiza Butt, Murad Khan Mumtaz, and Saira Wasim, on view through March 31, 2013. London-based artist Faiza Butt will speak about her work at Tufts on February 28 at 4 pm.

Illuminated Geographies explores how contemporary miniaturist painting is evolving from its roots in Mughal painting, as it is brought into different contexts and its stylistic foundation is adapted through different artistic visions. The practice of Mughal miniature painting originated during the 16th century in the Mughal Empire, spanning what is now India, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Pakistan. As this Muslim empire fell into decline, so did its art form, marked by a meticulous attention to minute detail, lush jewel tones, epic subject matter, and diminutive scale. Today we are experiencing a renaissance in this mode of artistic expression, due, in large part, to the National College of Arts in Lahore, Pakistan (NCA), which since the 1980s has taught this traditional practice of wasli paper- and brush-making techniques, paint mixing, narrative style, and iconography. Two generations of artists have now studied at the NCA and have reinvigorated this practice as a relevant, globalized contemporary art form by infusing it with their individual visions and contemporary subject matter.

The exhibition focuses on four artists trained at the NCA now living outside of Pakistan each of whom are pushing the boundaries of miniaturist practice in different directions. These artists --Ambreen Butt, Faiza Butt, Murad Khan Mumtaz, and Saira Wasim -- all deal with themes of cultural amalgamation in their work. Influenced by their current location and distance from Pakistan, they address political, social and cultural realities of Pakistan and their present environments. The works in this exhibition are eloquent illustrations of hybridity—of language, place, and time. They draw parallels between divergent traditions and allow for different perspectives to occupy a single space. Despite a shared origin in Pakistan, the subject of Illuminated Geographies is both translocal and transcultural in nature—reaching across national boundaries and beyond Islamic traditions.

Illuminated Geographies has been organized by the Tufts University Art Gallery and guest curated by Justine Ludwig, adjunct curator at the Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati.

Together with the Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, which organizedRealms of Intimacy: Miniaturist Practice from Pakistan (on view September 2011 to January 2012), a multi-authored publication, titled Translocal: Miniaturist Practice Out of Pakistan, will be co-published by Tufts and the CAC, featuring the artists in both shows -- Ambreen Butt, Faiza Butt, Murad Khan Mumtaz, Imran Qureshi, Nusra Qureshi, and Saira Wasim – installation views, and essays by Iftikar Dadi, Salima Hashmi, Justine Ludwig, Ayesha Jalal, and Virginia Wiles. It will also feature 10 contemporary artists trained at the NCA working internationally: Hamra Abbas; Khadim Ali; Ayesha Durrani; Ahsan Jamal; Aisha Khalid; Hasnat Mehmood; Tazeen Qayyum; Talha Rathore; Shahzia Sikander; Muhammad Zeeshan.

To pre-order the publication, available as of April 1, Price: $50, plus shipping and handling.

ISBN 9781880593110

Download the Press Release >


Listen to our guided tour stops here:

STOP 1: Introduction to Illuminated Geographies, Ayesha Jalal, Mary Richardson Professor of History at Tufts University

STOP 2: The artists' relationship to Pakistani geography, Phillippa Pitts, Gallery Graduate and Curatorial Assistant

STOP 3: Faiza Butt speaks about her work

STOP 4: Ambreen Butt speaks about her work

STOP 5: Saira Wasim speaks about her work

STOP 6: Murad Khan Mumtaz speaks about his work

Ambreen Butt
Call me a blasphemy
Paper on tea-stained paper
57 x 78 in.
Courtesy of Carroll and Sons Art Gallery
Photography John Horner Photography

Faisa Butt
God's best 4, 5, 6 
Digital print and ink on polyester film
33.1 x 23.4 in. (unframed)
Courtesy of the artist
Photography by Tony Walsh

Saira Wasim
7.5 x 9.4 in. (unframed)
Gouache and tea wash on wasli paper
Courtesy of the artist

Murad Khan Mumtaz
Opaque watercolor on wasli paper
18.5 x 18.5 in. (unframed)
Courtesy of the artist and
Tracy Williams, Ltd., New York

Related Events:

Thursday, January 17

Thursday, January 24, 5:30-8:00pm

by curator Justine Ludwig
Thursday, January 24, 6:30 pm

Discussion of gender, politics, and sexuality in contemporary Pakistan
Co-organized with the Tufts' Women's Center and LGBT Center
Meets in Alumnae Lounge, lunch provided. Space is limited; RSVP required:
Wednesday, February 27, 12:15-1:30pm

Co-sponsored by the Tufts Center for South Asian & Indian Ocean Studies
Tisch Family Gallery, Aidekman Arts Center
Thursday, February 28, 4:00pm

Book Launch for Translocal: Contemporary Miniaturist Practice Out of Pakistan
Wednesday, March 27, 4:00-5:30pm

Sunday, March 31