Aisha Khalid transforms traditional miniature painting with pins


Aisha Khalid is one of a generation of artists from Pakistan who have transformed the tradition of miniature painting into an internationally celebrated form of contemporary art. In recent years, Khalid’s practice has extended to significantly larger paintings, murals, installations and tapestries.

Watch | Aisha Khalid discusses her hanging tapestry

In her textile works, Khalid draws on a form of visual language embedded in Persian culture, with its emphasis on pattern, colour and geometry, as well as incorporating designs from traditional Charbagh gardens. These large-scale hanging tapestries, embedded with thousands of long, gold-plated pins show the confident hand of a miniaturist, together with her sensitive understanding of pattern making and her love of textiles. The sharp pins pierce through several layers of cloth and add a three-dimensional, sculptural element to the works, creating a tension between beauty and danger, pain and fragility.

Khalid draws on Persian and Islamic art, experimenting with scale, technique and subject matter to translate historic traditions into an art practice that is politically and socially relevant today. In her transformation of elaborate techniques, Khalid subtly comments on our contemporary world.

‘Water has never feared the fire’ (details) 2018

Details of Aisha Khalid’s Water has never feared the fire 2018

Taking its title from the words of the thirteenth-century Persian poet Rumi, Water has never feared the fire 2018 is a triptych with the central panel based on the quadrilateral garden layout of the Charbagh. The Charbagh represents the quintessential Islamic garden from the Qur’an, and is a symbol of paradise on earth. The four sections constitute the four gardens of paradise and are delineated by four water channels representing the rivers of paradise. Within the sections are dragons and phoenix – creatures that appear widely in Persian art – while the outer panels’ geometric designs represent water, in which sea creatures and ships symbolise trade and the movement of peoples and cultures. Motifs on one side of her tapestry are barely distinguishable on the reverse, including a central design, which, in Mughal architecture and gardens, would be the space where the heavenly symbols culminate.

Aisha Khalid ‘Water has never feared the fire 2018

Aisha Khalid, Pakistan b.1972 / Water has never feared the fire 2018 / Fabric, gold-plated and steel pins / Triptych: 492.75 x 167.65cm; 492.75 x 83.8cm; 492.75 x 83.8cm / Commissioned for APT9 / The Kenneth and Yasuko Myer Collection of Contemporary Asian Art. Purchased 2018 with funds from The Myer Foundation through the Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art Foundation to commemorate the 25th anniversary of The Kenneth and Yasuko Myer Collection of Contemporary Asian Art / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art / © Aisha Khalid

The 9th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art (APT9) / Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art (QAGOMA) Brisbane Australia / 24 Nov 2018 – 28 Apr 2019