APT8: Risham Syed’s paintings can be carried around in her purse

 
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Risham Syed, Pakistan b.1969 / Untitled 1 (from ‘Lahore’ series) 2015 / Synthetic polymer paint on canvas on aluminium / Purchased 2015. Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art Foundation / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery / © The artist
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Risham Syed, Pakistan b.1969 / Untitled 2 (from ‘Lahore’ series) 2015 / Synthetic polymer paint on canvas on aluminium / Purchased 2015. Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art Foundation / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery / © The artist

Risham Syed draws on the refined tradition of South Asian miniature painting. Since the 1980s, this art form has seen a revival in Pakistan, particularly centred around the National College of Arts in Lahore where students are taught the refined tradition and artists have reworked the medium into new forms. Departing from the figure as a central motif in miniature painting, Syed concentrates on empty, in-between spaces around Lahore. Lahore is an ancient city tracing its origins to pre-historic myths, and it has seen many transformations under Turkish, Mughal and British rule. Yet the last 15 years have witnessed increasingly rapid development and growth in Syed’s native city.

In acknowledgment of this, Syed’s paintings from her ongoing ‘Lahore’ series focus on the backs of buildings that appear blank, faceless, indeterminate, and will soon disappear. Syed deliberately chooses these spaces as they are sites that will be transformed by impending development and are not intended to be seen. They are temporary spaces, and by capturing and freezing them in these delicate paintings, Syed frames the space of change.

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Risham Syed’s ‘Lahore’ series installed in APT8

Syed’s ongoing series comments on the changing surroundings of her home city, while evaluating the role of painting in different contexts. In her own words:

‘Lahore like all big metropolises in the third world has been expanding at an exponential rate in the last couple of decades. It’s the new Lahore that perhaps a person like me who has experienced the old city while growing up cannot fathom. New upper middle class quarters have emerged hurriedly over-night. I have chosen to paint the back walls of these houses that are left unfinished, usually simply cemented or covered in tar. These post-card sized paintings in acrylic question the tradition and subject matter of the history of oil painting and play on the eighteenth/nineteenth century idea of possessing exotic landscapes through painting. These postcards can be potentially carried around in a purse.’

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Risham Syed, Pakistan b.1969 / Untitled 3 (from ‘Lahore’ series) 2015 / Synthetic polymer paint on canvas on aluminium / Purchased 2015. Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art Foundation / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery / © The artist
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Risham Syed, Pakistan b.1969 / Untitled 4 (from ‘Lahore’ series) 2015 / Synthetic polymer paint on canvas on aluminium / Purchased 2015. Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art Foundation / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery / © The artist

The Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art (APT)
is the Gallery’s flagship exhibition focused on the work of Asia, the Pacific and Australia.
21 November 2015 – 10 April 2016

Exhibition Founding Sponsor: Queensland Government
Exhibition Principal Sponsor: Audi Australia